Sales to intoxicated persons (SIP) law enforcement

Evidence Rating  
Evidence rating: Insufficient Evidence

Strategies with this rating have limited research documenting effects. These strategies need further research, often with stronger designs, to confirm effects.

Health Factors  
Decision Makers
Date last updated

Enforcement of sales to intoxicated persons (SIP) laws, also known as overservice laws, reflect proactive community efforts to prohibit alcoholic beverage service to intoxicated customers in alcohol outlets such as bars, restaurants, and liquor stores. Such efforts are carried out by Alcohol Beverage Control personnel or plainclothes or uniformed police and may include walk-throughs, random inspections, last call enforcement, blood alcohol concentration testing, and media messaging1. Violations may result in fines, imprisonment, or revocation of a retailer’s license. Alcohol beverage outlets are often informed of enforcement plans, and managers and staff are provided with education and training to help prevent service to intoxicated customers2.

What could this strategy improve?

Expected Benefits

Our evidence rating is based on the likelihood of achieving these outcomes:

  • Reduced excessive drinking

  • Reduced alcohol-related harms

Potential Benefits

Our evidence rating is not based on these outcomes, but these benefits may also be possible:

  • Improved alcohol server practices

  • Reduced impaired driving

What does the research say about effectiveness?

There is insufficient evidence to determine whether initiatives to enforce sales to intoxicated persons (SIP) laws reduce excessive alcohol consumption and alcohol-related harms2. Available evidence suggests that such efforts can reduce service to intoxicated customers and reduce alcohol impaired driving, particularly when implemented in areas at high-risk for excessive use2, 3. However, additional evidence is needed to confirm effects.

Research suggests that visual observation in on-premise outlets may not support accurate identification of intoxicated individuals4. Use of valid and widely accepted criteria to define intoxication, implementation of unbiased enforcement procedures, adoption of clear and sufficiently severe penalties for violations, and efforts to increase alcohol outlet staff’s awareness of ongoing enforcement and consequences for violation appear to support successful enforcement efforts5.

A nationwide survey of local law enforcement agencies suggests that SIP laws are underutilized6.

How could this strategy impact health disparities? This strategy is rated no impact on disparities likely.
Implementation Examples

Forty-eight states and Washington, D.C. regulate alcohol sales to intoxicated people by law. Forty-six states and Washington, D.C. impose penalties for violations via criminal laws and administrative laws. Florida and Nevada do not have state-level sales to intoxicated persons (SIP) laws7, 8.


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1 Erickson 2015 - Erickson DJ, Rutledge PC, Lenk KM, et al. Patterns of alcohol policy enforcement activities among local law enforcement agencies: A latent class analysis. The International Journal of Alcohol and Drug Research. 2015;4(2):103-111.

2 CG-Alcohol - The Guide to Community Preventive Services (The Community Guide). Excessive alcohol consumption.

3 Jones 2011a - Jones L, Hughes K, Atkinson AM, Bellis MA. Reducing harm in drinking environments: A systematic review of effective approaches. Health & Place. 2011;17(2):508-18.

4 Barry 2014 - Barry AE, Weiler RM, Dennis M. “Obvious intoxication” isn’t so obvious. Addictive Behaviors. 2014;39(6):1050-1051.

5 Graham 2014 - Graham K, Miller P, Chikritzhs T, et al. Reducing intoxication among bar patrons: Some lessons from prevention of drinking and driving. Addiction. 2014;109(5):693-698.

6 Lenk 2014 - Lenk KM, Toomey TL, Nelson TF, Jones-Webb R, Erickson DJ. State and local law enforcement agency efforts to prevent sales to obviously intoxicated patrons. Journal of Community Health. 2014;39(2):339-348.

7 NHTSA-SIP laws - Mosher J, Hauck A, Carmona M, et al. Legal research report: Laws prohibiting alcohol sales to intoxicated persons. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT), National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA); 2009.

8 CAMY-SIP laws - Mosher JF, Cohen EN, Dahl E. An update on laws prohibiting alcohol sales to intoxicated persons. Baltimore, MD: Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth (CAMY), Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health; 2011.