Social host laws are beginning to pop up in more states than ever. Depending on how it’s defined, the laws could cover anything from a parent purchasing alcohol and letting their teen drink at home to a nightclub not cutting someone off who is clearly over their limit.
There’s a case on the docket in Pinellas County Circuit Court, Florida right now that could have some significance for Florida social host laws. It may make defining responsibility more obvious when a drunk driver drinks too much at their establishment and drives on to kill someone.
The case involves Caroline Sine, a music teacher in Pinellas County. She was driving in August 2016 when her car was crashed into by Brice MacLeod. He had been out that night, drinking his way between a few craft breweries, and he left both places drunk. He was more than double the legal limit when he ran the red light and crashed into Sine.
Sine’s father filed a lawsuit alleging the two pubs he visited served him more than enough alcohol to get him drunk, and they didn’t stop him before he got behind the wheel. It also states that MacLeod was a frequent visitor to those establishments and he was addicted to alcohol.
As a repeat drunk driver, with a previous DUI conviction in 2006, he was past the point of the Florida lookback period. In Florida, a first DUI only has a lookback of five years before it will count against the offender for a second conviction. The fact that the lookback expired doesn’t mean he got off easy, because he’s been charged with DUI manslaughter, DUI, and DUI causing serious injury and is spending 14 years behind bars for it.
Whether the breweries will be held accountable for the death of Sine is up to a judge and jury, but it does cast a light on how social host laws are supposed to work. If you see someone drinking alcohol and they are clearly over the legal limit, it’s a no-brainer you should stop them from driving. If you’re the person serving them that alcohol, it’s even more important because it may be just as much your fault and it is theirs when they kill someone because of drunk driving.