Florida Eyes Tougher DUI Penalties

Panama City drunk driving accidents happen all too often. Our region is known as a bustling and vibrant community, but sadly, not all residents and visitors act responsibly when celebrating. As a Panama City auto accident law firm, we see the tragic outcomes of drinking and driving, and we applaud law enforcement efforts to crack down on dangerous behavior.

According to a national database, in 2008 there were 58,824 arrests in Florida for drunk driving, an increase of over 3,000 arrests from 2007. The year 2008 also saw 826 fatal accidents in which at least one of the drivers recorded a blood alcohol concentration at or above 0.08%. These accidents resulted in 917 deaths.

Approximately 200 additional deaths involved drivers with blood alcohol levels between 0.01% and 0.07%. In 2008, Florida saw 1,041 traffic deaths involving a driver with a blood alcohol concentration about 0.01%, including 875 fatalities where a driver had a blood alcohol concentration at 0.08% or above.

According to WJGH, the state is considering adding to the penalties for individuals convicted of driving under the influence. A DUI-related bill unanimously passed the House Economic Affairs Committee on Wednesday. The measure would require anyone convicted of a DUI to install an ignition interlock device on their vehicle. Currently the device is only required for first-offenders if they are either involved in an alcohol-related accident, convicted of a DUI while a minor is in the vehicle, or whose DUI charge involved a blood alcohol concentration over 0.15%.

The current law does mandate the device for all second (or subsequent) offenses. Interlock requirements generally come into play when the offender's license has been restored after a mandatory license suspension, usually at least 180 days. If passed, the new law would require even first-time offenders to install the device for at least three months. The bill will now go to the state's Senate Criminal Justice Committee.

In order to start a car equipped with an interlock device, the driver needs to breathe into a tube. The vehicle will not start if a set, low level of alcohol is detected. In order to prevent another person from starting the car for an impaired driver, the device periodically requires an additional breath sample. If this is not provided, or if the sample exceeds the very minimal pre-programmed blood alcohol level, the device will log the event and may cause the lights to flash or horn to sound until the ignition is shut off. Installing the device can cost between fifty and two hundred dollars, and there is a continuing charge of between fifty and one hundred dollars per month for the duration of the interlock order.

Serving as Panama City car accident lawyers, we see all too many lives impacted by Northern Florida auto accidents. We understand efforts to decrease offenses, including the use of interlock devices to ensure those convicted of a DUI do not even have the opportunity to reoffend. We hope Florida will continue to protect the public by treating drunk driving as a serious and dangerous offense.

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