In Saturday’s Palm Beach Post, a story was reported that the Florida Legislature is contemplating a new law mandating a ignition interlock be placed in a vehicle for all first time offenders for DUI.
An ignition interlock is a device to sense alcohol prior to starting a vehicle. Currently, it is not mandated by statute on a first offense, unless the offender had a breath of .15 or above (almost 2x the legal limit).
The proponents of the bill state that this will save lives. They site to studies that it cuts down on recidivism, and state “The recidivism rate drops dramatically because you simply can’t do it again,” said Heather Geronemus, a member of the Mothers Against Drunken Driving chapter that covers Broward and Palm Beach counties. “In the case of people who have already offended and been convicted, we’re helping them make a better decision.”
While I applaud any effort to reduce Drunk Driving, I think those in the legislature who put this bill forward think its a win/win. No one in congress seems to oppose laws that make DUI penalties more severe. Why would they, on the next election, their opponents would say this person helps drunk drivers.
The Florida DUI laws in place are very strict and have severe penalties for first offense like:
1. Mandatory conviction. (Stays on your record forever).
2. Mandatory probation.
3. Mandated DUI school. Which requires an evaluation, and mandatory treatment if required.
4. Vehicle immobilization.
5. Community Service Hours
6. Minimum fine of 500.00 dollars.
These penalties are on top of penalties imposed by the DMV, which can result of the loss of your license for 6 months to 1 year.
By the time someone has been convicted of their first DUI they have already spent hours in court, probation, dui school, community service, and more than likely have lost the ability to drive. This can put some one’s job at risk.
Lastly, the increased monthly expense of having an interlock device can be astronomical. This will only set those up to fail.
We should stop imposing more penalties and use resources to help those make bad decisions to start making better ones.
DUI is a very serious crime that can have fatal implications. There is no excuse for it. I don’t believe increased penalties on a first offense will significantly drop the recidivism rate.