If a person is arrested for a DUI in Florida, judges have the authority to impose the use of ignition interlock devices. If a driver has more than one DUI already on his record, the devices are mandatory.
Still, they aren’t required for first-time offenders, and Mothers Against Drunk Driving and vendors of the devices have recently renewed the legislative push to make ignition-interlock devices required for all DUI offenders.
Now, our Fort Lauderdale injury lawyers have learned that a new approach is being proposed. While the ignition-interlock device requires the user to blow into a breathalyzer – and pass the test – before the vehicle will start, a new bill proposes that some DUI offenders be required to submit to a 24/7 DUI abstinence program.
That means the offenders won’t be required to install an ignition interlock, but they will be monitored to ensure they aren’t drinking any alcohol. The “24/7 sobriety” approach has been adopted in a few other states, and generally require multiple offenders to submit to breathalyzer tests twice every day, as well as offer random urinalysis or wear an alcohol-monitor bracelet.
The News Service of Florida reports that HB 7005 has so far received general approval from the Economic Affairs Committee, the Transportation & Economic Development Appropriations Subcommittee and the Transportation and Highway Safety Subcommittee.
Supporters say these types of abstinence programs not only reduce rates of drunk driving, but also other drug-and-alcohol-related offenses, like domestic violence or theft. Additionally, these programs reportedly have compliance rates that are higher than those for the ignition-interlock program.
Ignition-interlock devices are in use by about 10,000 Floridians at this point.
However, Julie Jones, executive director of the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, is among those who believe sobriety programs are the way to go. Jones is advocating that the courts take half of all people who would otherwise be required to install-ignition interlocks and have them instead go through the sobriety program and then compare the results of the two programs after a five-year span.
She was quoted as saying that while ignition interlock has been a useful tool, drunk driving accidents, injuries and arrests continue to climb. A multi-pronged approach may be necessary, she says, and judges shouldn’t feel limited in their options.
The ignition-interlock vendors manage a $10 million industry in Florida alone, and though they are pushing for expansion to first-time offenders, Jones said there is no indication that is necessary. However, HB 7005, as it’s currently written, could still technically apply to first-time DUI offenders.
We’ll be watching the progression of the bill closely.
Call Fort Lauderdale Injury Attorney Richard Ansara at (954) 761-4011. Serving Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.
Breath Tests Get Support In DUI Wars, April 17, 2014, April 17, 2014, Staff Report, CBS Miami
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