Maine’s departed governor, Paul LePage, has found a new job: he will be serving as a bartender at a restaurant in Boothbay Harbor. The position makes him vulnerable to one of the most overlooked aspects of Maine’s law against operating under the influence (OUI): dram shop liability.
Maine’s most recent governor, Paul LePage, was term-limited out of the governor’s office in 2018. While most politicians can quickly get jobs consulting or lobbying, Mr. LePage took a different course: he’ll be working as a bartender at McSeagull’s Restaurant in Boothbay Harbor, Maine, alongside his wife, Ann.
This new position brings to light an often overlooked aspect of OUI in Maine: the Dram Shop Law.
When someone gets pulled over, arrested, and charged with OUI, most of the attention is paid to the criminal process. The focus is for a good reason – the accused faces fines, potentially even jail time, and a lengthy suspension of a driver’s license.
However, if the OUI arrest came from a car crash that hurt or killed someone, there exists the very real possibility that there will be a civil lawsuit filed by the hurt driver or his or her family against whoever served the OUI suspect alcohol.
The law that allows these civil lawsuits is Maine’s dram shop act, named after the antiquated word for a liquor store or tavern. This law, found at 28-A Maine Revised Code § 2501 et seq., gives people who have been hurt by drunk drivers a right to compensation from bartenders or establishments who “negligently or recklessly” serve alcohol to someone who was underage or who was “visibly intoxicated.”
In short, under Maine’s dram shop laws, people who have been hurt by an allegedly drunk driver can file a civil personal injury claim against the bar or bartender. This civil lawsuit moves through the court system at the same time, but also independently, from the criminal OUI case against the driver who was accused of being under the influence and causing the crash.
Importantly, bartenders and taverns in Maine can only be held civilly responsible for over-serving underage customers or those who are visibly intoxicated. In some other states, like Texas, they can be held criminally responsible. There, Alcoholic Beverage Code § 101.63 makes it a misdemeanor to serve alcohol to “an habitual drunkard or an intoxicated or insane person.” The penalties include a fine of between $500 and $1,000 and up to a year in jail for a first offense.
The OUI defense team at Maine Criminal Defense Group focuses on representing people who have been arrested and accused of driving while under the influence of alcohol in Maine. With our help and vigorous legal representation, you can invoke your rights, challenge the case against you, and protect your future and your right to drive. Contact us online or call our law offices in Portland or Biddeford at (207) 571-8146 to get the legal help you need at this difficult time.
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