Panama City -- The House Economic Affairs Committee unanimously passed the bill (HB681 / SB864) Wednesday that will make life more costly and inconvenient for people convicted of Driving Under the Influence (DUI). 15 states have laws similar to the bills going through the Florida legislature.
Current Florida law requires anyone convicted of a DUI that either has a minor in the car, is involved in an accident or has a blood alcohol level over .15 to install an ignition interlock device on their vehicle. This new proposal would require the device for anyone convicted of DUI.
Derek Collins was previously convicted of DUI and is a recovering alcoholic, and he says the interlock device has been a learning experience.
“I think it will be a really good deterrent for alcohol. You get this one time, you really don’t want it again” said Derek Collins.
Collins has to blow into the interlock device and pass it before he can start the ignition of his car. If the new bill passes, even first time offenders will have to have the device installed for atleast three months.
“If it’s going to prevent an individual from driving while impaired then, I’m all for it” said Mary Cruel, DUI Evaluator.
Cruel works with DUI offenders. She believes if more people were educated on the consequences of drinking and driving, they’d be less likely to get behind the wheel after a few drinks.
“The interlock for three months that will just enhance that learning experience, yes I do believe that would prevent continued impaired driving” said Cruel.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) is also supporting the legislation.
“Hopefully it helps with behavior modification, with people who don’t think they have an issue with drinking, maybe this shows them that they do” said Kristen Allen, State Victim Services Manager, MADD.
The interlock device can subject the driver to blow into it at random even while the car is in motion, and if the driver fails once the car is turned off it will not start again for several hours. The cost of ignition interlock devices average between $50 - $200 to install and carry a monthly fee of $50 - $100 dollars for the duration of the court order. Add that to the cost of a DUI fine. For first time offenders pay close to $1,000 dollars, and those with a blood alcohol level of more than .15, the fine jumps to $2,000 dollars.
The bill now goes to the Senate Criminal Justice Committee.