While much attention was being paid to a new law meant to make the penalties for hit and run drivers more in line with those of drunk drivers who stay at the scene of deadly accidents, Florida also passed other modifications of how some parts of the sentencing for those convicted of DUI will work. The new laws will specifically deal with how offenders are ordered to have interlock devices in their vehicles and gives judges discretion to order other alternative sentences in some cases.
The new law will allow judges to order first time drunk driving offenders to put an interlock device in their vehicles for up to six months. Until this law was passed, interlock devices were normally not ordered for those arrested for the first time. The new law related to first time offenders was passed with the encouragement of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, who are pushing nationwide to put interlock devices in the vehicles of everyone convicted of driving while intoxicated.
What Mothers Against Drunk Driving did not approve of was another part of the new law which also give judges the discretion to order those convicted to driving while impaired in Florida to become involved in an abstinence-based program called 24/7 Sober. This program is presented as an alternative to an interlock program. This program did not gain M.A.D.D. approval because they do not believe that it provides an adequate alternative to interlock devices when it comes to keeping impaired drivers off the road.
The 24/7 Sober program replaces interlock devices for some convicted of driving while impaired and instead makes those people submit to twice daily breathalyzer tests, random urine screening or mandatory wearing of drug patches or alcohol monitoring bracelets. The program has been used in recent years in three other states. The idea behind the program is that it is meant to keep those convicted of DUI from offending again. Supporters point to some studies showing that these programs lead to better long term results and will also do more to keep those who are under the influence of drugs off the roads, something that currently cannot be done with an interlock since they only detect alcohol. The program has been tested in Jacksonville for the last few months.
Judges will not be limited to one program or the other when sentencing, but can now sentence someone convicted of driving under the influence to a combination of both programs.
Until this law was passed, the law only allowed for judges to force those convicted of driving under the influence to install an interlock in a limited number of cases. Mainly the cases where they could be ordered would be for those repeat offenders or those who were caught driving with an especially high BAC.
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