First Offense DUI Ignition Interlock Bill Passes Florida House Committee
A new bill that would require first-time DUI offenders to have ignition interlock devices has passed its first committee in the Florida House of Representatives.
Ignition interlock systems prevent a car from starting until the driver blows into a device that measures breath-alcohol content. The ignition interlock will only permit the car to begin when the breath-alcohol content is below .08 percent.
Why This Bill Matters
Current law makes the device mandatory for first-time DUI offenders if their blood alcohol content is .15 percent or more at the time of the arrest, or if a minor was in the vehicle. On the second DUI conviction, a device is required to be installed for at least one year. After four or more DUI convictions, an interlock device is required for at least five years.
The changes proposed in this new bill would make it so that a person convicted of a first-offense DUI would have the opportunity for a withhold of adjudication if they voluntarily elected to put an ignition interlock device on their vehicle, or if the judge ordered the device. This means the judge shall release the defendant without a conviction if they used an ignition interlock device for 6 months or more. However, failure to comply with the terms of the order for placement of an ignition interlock device would result in an adjudication of guilt, among other penalties. Additionally, a “withhold” would not be an option for anyone that has a prior withhold of adjudication or adjudication of guilt for any other offense.
Making The Roads Safer
In 2015, 797 people died in DUI accidents in Florida, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Proponents of the bill believe it could save lives and make the roads safer. In support of that claim, the Center for Disease Control says ignition interlock devices reduce repeat DUI offenses by 67%.
There are roughly 9,000 interlock devices currently active in Florida. Those who are required to have one must have it installed by a state-approved vendor. On average, the price to rent a device runs from $50 to $100 per month.
The bill (HB 949), filed by Florida Rep. Cord Byrd, must go through two more committees before it reaches the house. If passed, Florida would join twenty-eight other states and the District of Columbia with similar interlock device laws.