What If Florida Decriminalized DUI?
On Thursday, June 14th 2012, the California State Senate voted in favor of a measure that would allow people convicted of low level misdemeanors to reduce their jail time through more alternative methods than previously allowed, according to the LA Times.
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The law, officially labeled AB 2127, passed 21-14, with opposition by Republicans and some Democrats. A version had previously been approved in April, with the more recent vote including some amendments.
Under the new law, sheriffs can give convicts credit against their prison terms for participating in various programs related to topics like life skills, parenting or substance abuse. Under the previous work release program, the only alternatives offered were forms of manual labor, for example, such as cleaning graffiti.
The opposition claims that this will weaken numerous measures added to strengthen DUI laws over the last few decades, essentially “decriminalizing” the severity of DUI to an extent. Proponent Sen. Gloria Negrete McLeod (D-Chino), however, says that it will “serve as an incentive for people convicted of low-level misdemeanors to do their best in fully reintegrating into the general society.”
The California District Attorneys Association has come out against the law. Also opposing it is the organization Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), which called for a provision denying the measures’ benefits to drunk drivers.
The bill was originally introduced by Assemblyman Roger Hernandez (D-West Covina) on 23 February 2012. This turned out to be embarrassing for proponents of the law a little more than one month later, when Hernandez was arrested for drunk driving (in a Toyota Camry owned by the state, for which he lacked proper authorization). He was eventually charged with two misdemeanors, to which he has plead not guilty.
Hernandez’s name was taken off of the measure prior to the vote. Nevertheless San Diego Sen. Joel Anderson, a Republican, repeatedly referred to it as “Roger’s Law” during the debate, claiming that it will “pull[…}those very same teeth from California drunk driving laws.”
Though AB 2127 doesn’t necessarily decriminalize DUI in California, there could be quite an impact if there was a full-fledged decriminalization in Florida. There is already a push towards mitigating suspended license penalties, and possibly cannabis laws (medicinal?) one day in the not so distant future.