Stories written by Jo Ciavaglia, award-winning multimedia newspaper reporter at the Bucks County Courier Times in Bucks County, a suburb of Philadelphia, Pa.
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Tuesday, August 7, 2012
Serving intoxicated people: A crime that is rarely enforced
Posted: Sunday, August 5, 2012 5:00 am
After drinking at least four Coors Lights — a 14-ounce and three 22-ounces — and two vodka drinks in about three hours, John Leck Jr. was so drunk, police said, that he doesn’t remember where he went during the nearly two hours before he drove the wrong way on Interstate 95 and killed a Philadelphia police officer.
The Middletown man faces a list of criminal charges in last month’s death of Officer Brian Lorenzo, including homicide by vehicle while under the influence.
So could the owner of T.G.I. Friday’s — where Leck was drinking before the accident — and any employees who served him that night. But law enforcement and district attorneys say such prosecutions are almost unheard of.
Pennsylvania isn’t unusual either, according to the National Highway and Transportation Safety Administrative report. In 2009, the federal transportation agency found that while most states have so-called Serving Intoxicated People laws, enforcement is “relatively rare” and criminal penalties are unclear in many states.
Meanwhile, tavern industry officials argue that bar employees are not mind readers and that making the call when a customer appears intoxicated is not always clear cut.