The Sale of Alcohol to Interlock Licensed Drivers is Indefensible

The Albuquerque Journal had an interesting article last week regarding the refusal of some stores to sell alcohol to drivers with interlock licenses. This seems to be an obvious tool for the reduction of DWI/DUI related auto accidents. Though there are a few vendors that have adopted the policy, most have not. The question arises why more do not adopt the policy of refusing the sale of alcohol to DWI/DUI offenders on interlock drivers licenses.

Drivers arrested for DWI/DUI face automatic license revocation by New Mexico Motor Vehicles Division. In addition, the courts impose a separate and independent license revocation following a criminal conviction for DWI/DUI. Drivers with revoked licenses due to DWI/DUI arrests or convictions must obtain a special interlock license and install an ignition interlock device on their vehicle. Driving in violation of these terms carries up to one year in jail.

The owner of Albuquerque‘s Jubilation Wine & Spirits was quoted in the Albuquerque Journal article as saying that he is refusing the sale of alcohol to those with interlock licenses to do his part in helping to keep drunk drivers off the road. This is certainly admirable on his part and it is unfortunate that more store owners do not take the same position. There is no law that prohibits the sale of alcohol to drivers with interlock licenses. Does the store have a duty to keep drunk drivers off the road despite the lack of law to that effect? It seems that they may under simple dram shop liability theories.

As part of every DWI/DUI charge, there are conditions of release that prohibit drinking and driving. This seems to go without saying. There is also the condition that the defendant consume no alcohol at all while the case is pending. Likewise, upon conviction, the same prohibition against the consumption of alcohol applies throughout probation.

DWI/DUI drivers cannot legally use alcohol so they certainly have no business purchasing it. There is no good reason to allow the sale of alcohol to drivers with interlock licenses. The sale of alcohol to a person known to have a problem with drinking and driving, who clearly as a term of his conditions of release or probation is prohibited by court order from using alcohol, creates a plain threat to the safety of the driving public.

Jubilation is on the right track. Others who fail to follow the lead may do so at their peril. Dram shop liability laws provide a very good model for holding irresponsible store owners liable for damages and harm caused as a result of serving up alcohol to those known to be a threat to the public. A bar cannot sell alcohol to someone that is already intoxicated because this poses a threat to public safety. Does the same rationale not apply to selling alcohol to DWI/DUI offenders currently under driving restrictions due to the danger they pose to the public?

There are two approaches to attacking DWI/DUI. First and most obviously, the drunken drivers must be held accountable. Secondly, the source of the alcohol can be addressed. The State has not seen fit to prohibit the sale of alcohol to DWI/DUI offenders. It seems only a matter of time before personal injury lawsuits are filed against alcohol vendors for these irresponsible and indefensible practices that will inevitably at some point lead to tragedy. Perhaps these lawsuits will help to reduce the number of DWI/DUI drivers on New Mexico roads.


Related Reading:
Reach of New Mexico Dram Shop Laws Extends to Business Wining & Dining
Dram Shop Liability Issues Not Always Apparent
Dram Shop Liability: Shifting Burden of Proof

Collins & Collins, P.C.
Albuquerque Attorneys

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