Ignition interlocks proposed for first-time DUI offenders

Florida lawmakers are considering a bill that would require ignition interlocks for first-time DUI offenders.

A bill that would penalize first-time DUI offenders with an ignition interlock device has just passed a key committee in the Florida legislature, according to CBS Miami. If the bill ultimately becomes law it could make penalties for first-time DUI offenders much tougher and more expensive. At the same time, however, the bill includes a provision that would also make it easier for first-time offenders to have the DUI conviction removed from their records if they meet certain conditions. The bill is still in its early stages and could be changed before and if it is ultimately voted on by the House.

Interlocks for first-time offenders

Under current law, an ignition interlock device is only required if the person's blood alcohol content level is over 0.15 or there was a minor in the vehicle at the time of the arrest. Multiple DUI offenders are also subjected to an ignition interlock device.

House Bill 949 would expand the ignition interlock program to include all first-time offenders. While an ignition interlock device is generally considered a harsh punishment that is reserved only for the worst DUI offenders, the bill does include a provision that would allow first-time offenders to have their DUI conviction withheld from their record if they keep the interlock device on for six months. As News4JAX reports, the DUI conviction would still be visible to police, but it would not be visible to other parties, such as employers or landlords, when they conduct a criminal background check on the individual. To be eligible for the conviction to be sealed, the individual must not have a prior criminal record.

The debate around ignition interlock devices

Ignition interlock devices have become popular with lawmakers in recent years who see it as an efficient way of cutting down on drunk driving while also allowing people to maintain their driving privileges. Indeed, the fact that a person with a DUI conviction can continue to drive even after multiple convictions often helps them hold down jobs, run errands, and generally enjoy a decent quality of life.

At the same time, however, an ignition interlock device is quite intrusive since it requires the driver to blow into it every time he or she wants to start their vehicle. Furthermore, it is expensive, costing offenders who are ordered to install the device $3 per day - an amount that can quickly add up. House Bill 949 still has to pass two more committees before it will be voted on by the House, meaning there is no guarantee that it will ultimately become law.

DUI defense

Being charged with a DUI is serious and could lead to penalties, fines, and even jail time. Anybody facing a charge of DUI, whether it's for a first offense or multiple offenses, should get in touch with a criminal defense attorney immediately. An experienced attorney can help defendants fight for their rights and assist them with responding appropriately to the charges against them.