Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Two Dead: Three Times Over The OWI Limit; When Will Taverns Share The Responsibility?

Again, the media has the sad details: a drunk driver, far over the limit after leaving a bar, kills herself, and an innocent passenger in another vehicle.

Like the crash a couple of years ago in Franklin after which a heavily-intoxicated driver killed two people after hours of getting hammered at a tavern, this more recent crash in Washington County raises an old question:

What's the culpability of the tavern, and the server (s)?

In the Franklin case, the owner had to shut down for a few months, but the Milwaukee District Attorney, after making noises about bring what would have been a precedent-setting charging, basically chickened out.

The DA said the bar and the bartender cooperated, which isn't really saying much since much of their continual serving of an obviously intoxicated patron was caught on videotape.

It's part of the terrible truth about Wisconsin's drinking culture: the taverns get a pass.

Even though it's an obvious fact that as in the Washington County wreck, a woman who drinks herself to 0.24 BAC has had a great deal to drink, and the server (s) had to have been aware that she would not make a very safe motorist thereafter.

I can hear all the libertarian/denial-and-enabling excuse makers hammering away at their keyboards about the responsibilities of the drinker (even though she was extremely drunk and not a keen decision-maker at the critical moment), and the unfettered rights of establishments to sell their legal product, etc.

Spare me.

DA Chisholm could have sent all tavern owners and employees a strong message after the Franklin case, but chose not to.

I'm not saying the crash wouldn't have happened recently in Washington County, but I'm saying a valuable teaching lesson was left undelivered.

How many more people have to die under these circumstances before law enforcement accurately apportions out a full and fair measure of legal consequences?


Anon Jim said...

Obviously there is a drinking culture in Wisconsin and until that changes - nothing of consequence will change in regards to alcohol related issues like this.

As far as anyone being idiotic enough to drink that much and then drive off killing themselves, that is just Darwinism in action.

The sad part is the collateral damage they caused.

Anonymous said...

That's Wisconsin. Worst in the nation. Starts in Jr. High and get a real start at the U.W. which leads the nation nearly every year as the nations party school.

easierSaidThanDone said...

When will taverns share the responsibility, you ask?

Let me respond by asking some questions in return?

Should the tavern be partly responsible if a patron has one drink and causes an accident?

Should the tavern be more responsible if a patron has two drinks and causes an accident?

Should the tavern be still more responsible if a patron has three drinks and causes an accident?

How about four drinks? Or, five drinks? Or six drinks?

After how many drinks, or what blood alcohol level is the initially responsible patron absolved of all responsibility?

Should the fellow teacher who joined the woman at the tavern be partly responsible?

If another patron bought this teacher a drink, should that patron be held partly responsible? And, if another patron bought the fifth drink rather than the first one, should that patron be more responsible?

And, while we're on the topic, in what way should the tavern be held accountable? Did the tavern commit a felony? If so, what is the felony? If so, who is arrested? The server(s)? The barkeeper? The owner?

Or, is it a fine or loss of license?

I can appreciate your desire to hold a tavern responsible, but it is not as easy as you make it seem.

James Rowen said...

An interesting set of questions...

Since an establishment can cut off a patron, I'd say a definite responsibility barrier is crossed if someone served to the point of legal intoxication is involved in a crash.

Anon Jim said...

So when exactly are the Dem's including Jim Doyle going to do anything about this situation?

Never apparently.