It's about time.
For too long - - forever, probably - - law enforcement has given bar owners and employees a pass when it comes to assigning legal responsibilities after a drunken patron has left the premises and committed mayhem.
Two Christmas-day homicides in Franklin allegedly caused by a suspected drunken driver after leaving a bar could lead to criminal charges, authorities say.
This is an investigation that could produce precedent-setting charges, and would fairly shift some - - note I am saying some - - of the legal responsibility for drunken behavior to the servers and their bosses.
It is certainly the responsibility of patrons to drink responsibly.
But in the real world, we all know that alcohol impairs judgement, and an inebriated person almost by definition loses the ability to make good decisions.
Servers and establishments that continue to sell drinks to such a patron are a) using poor judgement while presumably sober themselves, and b) fueling the disappearance of the patron's decision-making abilities by serving more alcohol.
Servers may say it's too hard to tell which patrons are drunk and which are not, or who are concealing it. My answer is: that is part of their job. And if they can't make that judgment, there's no way that patrons under the influence will be able to do it either.
The Franklin case, which is a terrible tragedy, and one that happens under sadly similar circumstances hundreds of time a year in Wisconsin, and thousands of times nationally each year, too, seems to have struck a chord and could have an important legal outcome.
So hat's off to the authorities who are looking into the case with a broader view.
Let's hope they have the fortitude to fend off pressures from the tavern industry's vested interests who will argue that a drunken patron's responsibilities are 100% personal.
Saturday, January 5, 2008
It's about time.