You know all about drinking responsibly, soon we will be hearing about serving responsibly. Perhaps you recall the tragic incident in San Diego two years ago when a drunken U.S. Marine driving his vehicle on the wrong side of the rode hit a car head on in which two UCSD medical students were traveling, killing both young women. Three other medical students in the car were injured. That accident prompted the victim’s classmates to lobby for legislation that would make it mandatory for alcohol servers to receive training about the effects of alcohol and how to serve responsibly.
A bill that passed in the California Assembly mandating alcohol responsibility training for bartenders was recently signed into law by Governor Brown. The new law, known as the Responsible Beverage Service (RBS) Training Program Act of 2017, requires the development of a statewide training program that will be administered by designated providers and will be mandatory education for any persons who will be serving alcohol. Alcohol servers will be required to complete this training in order to receive a required “Alcohol Server Certification.” The law requires that these programs be in operation on or before January 1, 2020. By July 1, 2021, all establishments that employ alcohol servers must require their servers to be certified.
The law broadly defines the parameters of the education but leaves it to the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control to develop the curriculum. The training must include information on the laws and regulations related to alcoholic beverage control and information on how alcohol affects the body. The training can be done in person or online. Presumably, it will include testing to make sure the student understands the information before the certificate is awarded. The certificate will be good for three years. Anyone who serves alcohol but fails to have or maintain a valid certificate will be subject to disciplinary action; however, the violation is not grounds for any criminal action.
The intention of the new law is to help alcohol servers identify those who have had too much alcohol and to understand their employer’s legal obligations. Ultimately, the goal is to empower those who serve alcohol to intervene when they identify a potential problem. The idea of an alcohol server certification perhaps sounds a bit silly but if you think about it, the certificate confers some authority to the server. While some may be skeptical that the certification will make any difference, Oregon instituted a similar law in 1986 and studies claim that since the law has been operative, there has been a significant reduction in single-vehicle nighttime crashes. While this doesn’t make any definitive statements about the efficacy of the alcohol servers training requirement in reducing alcohol-related crashes, the majority of such crashes occur at night, suggesting the training is at least partially explains the reduction.
I imagine most alcohol servers already know when someone has had too much to drink. But perhaps it is intimidating for a bartender or a cocktail waitress to cut someone off—especially when that someone is a belligerent drunk. I doubt the server will whip out their Alcohol Server Certification but perhaps the training and certification will give the server the knowledge and courage to say, “no more.” I also imagine the bartender or server who served those few too many beverages to the San Diego Marine feels somewhat responsible for the tragic consequences. If may be unfair to put this onus on alcohol servers but they may be the one who saves a life.
William Weinberg has been defending those charged with driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs for almost 25 years. If you are facing DUI charges, he welcomes your questions. Call him at his Irvine office at (949) 474-8008 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org for a complimentary consultation.