The Law Offices of John Phebus

How to prevent your guests from driving drunk

Drunk driving is one of the major causes of car accidents across the nation. In a concerted effort to crack down on such incidents, states have passed comprehensive drunk driving laws. In many locations, these include so-called social host liability laws. This means that someone hosting a social gathering can be held responsible if a guest gets drunk and then causes an accident.

Who is a social host?

Social host laws can vary in strictness from state to state. Generally, a host can be liable if he or she served alcohol to a guest already showing signs of intoxication and the host was aware that this person would be driving afterwards. A social host, in this context, means someone who does not have a liquor license or permit. In other words, a bar owner throwing a party at her or his bar is likely not a social host and is subject to stricter laws. On the other hand, a person or business having an event can be considered a social host.

Some states, including Arizona, are more lenient when it comes to social hosts and impose liability only for serving alcohol to someone under the legal drinking age. In other cases, liability can apply if the host holds a liquor license, even if the gathering was a personal and not a business one.

What can you do to stop drunk driving?

Whether you are concerned about legal liability or you just want to make sure your guests arrive home safely, there are some things you can do to reduce the risk that anyone will drive drunk. Obviously, the leading strategy is to avoid serving alcohol at all, but many people are understandably reluctant to take this step. Another thing you can do is track and limit the amount of alcohol served to each guest. If you are planning a large gathering, this technique can be more effective if you hire bartenders to help you keep track.

If you want to serve alcohol and do not want to police your guests' drinking, as that could get socially awkward, you may want to approach the issue from another angle and make sure guests are not driving home from the party. This can take the form of organizing designated drivers in advance or providing cabs or rideshares. As a host, you should also use your judgment and step in if you see that a guest is clearly intoxicated.

Sometimes another person's actions can put you on the hook for a DUI. If you are concerned about being held liable for a guest's drunk driving, speak with a qualified attorney in your area to learn more about your options.

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