Lawmaker pushes for DUI ignition interlock device for first offense

First-time DUI offenders would be required to install interlock device

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida lawmakers are considering requiring first-time DUI offenders to install ignition interlock devices in their vehicles instead of after a second offense or if the device is court-ordered.

The device prevents a vehicle from starting until the driver blows into a device measuring his or her breath-alcohol content, or BrAC. The ignition interlock will only allow the vehicle to start only if the BrAC is below the legal limit of .08 percent.

"It will deter people who are drunk from driving, and that's the idea and the push behind this bill," News 6 legal analyst Steven Kramer said.

Florida Rep. Cord Byrd (R-District 11) on Wednesday filed House Bill 949, which would require an ignition interlock device after a first conviction for driving under the influence. Senator David Simmons said he plans to amend SB 918 to also require ignition interlocks for all drunk drivers.

Current law requires people with a DUI conviction to install an interlock device only if a judge orders it. If the person blew a .15 percent or above, he or she is required to have an ignition interlock requirement installed. On the second conviction, a device must be installed for at least one year. Four or more DUI convictions require that a device remain on a vehicle for at least five years.

"It's out there right now, the question is should we apply every person convicted of first time DUI, regardless of the scenario, regardless of the facts?" Kramer said.

Twenty-eight states and Washington, D.C. require ignition interlocks for drivers convicted of DUI offenses at a .08 percent and above.

Proponents of the bill say it will save lives. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 797 people died in drunk driving crashes in Florida in 2015. The CDC says these devices reduce repeat drunk driving offenses by 67%.

"It's more important for them to prevent future DUI accidents, meaning they want to save lives. If someone is convicted of DUI, they don't want them to have a recidivism problem where they're disobeying the law and drinking and driving," Kramer said.

Meanwhile, opponents worry the legislation could be too harsh, especially for some first-time offenders, and could cause several burdens.

"The cost, the fickle nature, the operational challenges, monthly meetings with the service companies so you have that data transferred, the privacy sacrifice," Kramer said. "The argument is not every person convicted of DUI is an alcoholic, not every person convicted of DUI is an abuser. Some people just have a bad night."

Drivers required to have a device must contact an approved vendor to have it installed. The cost to lease one ranges from $50 to $100 per month.

Kramer said a similar bill last year failed to pass.