Under certain circumstances, Florida residents convicted of DUI may be required to install special “ignition interlock” devices in their cars in order to regain their driving privileges. Interlock devices contain a breath analyzer that determines if the driver’s blood-alcohol content is below the Florida legal limit of .08 percent. If the driver is above the limit, the vehicle will not start.
First-Time DUI Charge Could be Dismissed Under New Legislation
Under current Florida law, an ignition interlock device is mandatory for 1 year following a driver’s second DUI conviction, and for 6 months after a first DUI conviction if there was a minor in the car or the driver’s blood-alcohol content was at least 0.15 percent. For all other first-time DUI convictions, an interlock device may be ordered at the discretion of the sentencing judge.
But some Florida legislators want to encourage first-time DUI offenders to use ignition interlock devices. Similar bills have been introduced in the state House and Senate on this subject: House Bill 949 and Senate Bill 918.
HB 949, introduced by Rep. Cord Byrd of Neptune Beach, states that a person convicted of a first DUI, with no prior criminal record, could elect to install an ignition interlock device for six months. A judge could also still order an interlock as a condition of probation. In either case, the court would “withhold adjudication” of the defendant’s guilt during the six-month period. In other words, a person who successfully uses the interlock device for six months will effectively have the DUI erased from their record. According to Byrd, this means the driver “would be able to not report [the DUI charge] on an employment application, however law enforcement would still have access to the information.”
The second bill, SB 918, would effectively do the same thing as HB 949. It was introduced in the Senate by Orlando-area Sen. David Simmons.
On March 21, the House Transportation & Infrastructure Subcommittee gave preliminary approval to HB 949. The bill must still be approved by the full House Government Accountability Committee, as well as the House Judiciary Committee, before proceeding to a final floor vote. Similarly, SB 918 is working its way through a number of committee approvals before receiving a final vote in that chamber. If both houses agree to identical forms of the bill, it will be sent to Gov. Rick Scott for his signature. Both bills propose an effective date of October 1, 2017.
Have You Been Charged With a DUI in the Orlando Area?
HB949 and SB918 could have a significant impact on thousands of Florida residents. According to an analysis of HB949 prepared by the House of Representatives staff, there were 12,627 first-time DUI convictions in Florida in 2016. Currently there are more than 9,000 DUI offenders required to use ignition interlock devices. That number could therefore more than double under the new legislation.
If you have been charged with DUI, it is important to work with an experienced Orlando criminal defense attorney who understands the law and keep you informed of potential changes that affect your rights. If you need help, call the offices of Moses & Rooth, Attorneys at Law, today at 407-377-0150.