How Bill HB 555 Hopes to Change Florida DUI Laws
In late 2015, the Highway and Waterway Safety Subcommittee submitted Bill HB 555 to the Florida Senate. This bill suggests that first time DUI offenders need to install an ignition interlock, at their own expense, into any vehicle they plan to operate, regardless of the level of intoxication upon arrest. This bill is making its way through the Florida legislature, but if accepted, will go into effect October 2016.
This begs the question: Are Florida DUI laws too lenient against first time offenders?
As it currently stands, Florida DUI laws stipulate first time offenders should be fined anywhere between $500 to $1,000, spend up to 6 months in jail, have their license suspended and their vehicle potentially impounded for a set period of time.
Current laws stipulate that an ignition interlock needs to be installed for second time offenders, and only if they meet the minimum requirements to obtain a restricted license. Such factors include: Admittance of wrong doing either through a guilty plea or conviction, enrolment (and sometimes completion, depending on the severity) into a DUI rehabilitation program and payment of all applicable fees/fines.
The table below shows how some of the other states tackle this issue:
|State||Who needs an ignition interlock?|
|Arizona||First time offenders for 6 months
|California||Second time offenders|
|Georgia||Second time offenders, if court-ordered|
|Massachusetts||Second time offenders|
|New Mexico||First time offenders|
|New York||First time offenders|
|North Carolina||Second time offenders|
|Utah||Second time offenders|
|Virginia||First time offenders who register 0.15 BAC or higher|
|Washington||First time offenders|
Should Bill HB 555 pass legislation and become Florida law?
The U.S. Department of Transportation released drinking and driving statistics in conjunction with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in March 2014. This report revealed DUI recidivism rates in Florida averaged a staggering 58%. To put that into context: Vermont posted the highest at 73% while Mississippi had the lowest at 11%. This report ranks Florida in the upper third of all states in regards to DUI recidivism.
Is Florida prepared to tighten their DUI laws?
Only time will tell. In the mean time, drive safe, drink responsibly and always keep the safety of others close to heart.