Florida Considers Changing Ignition Interlock Limits

Florida authorities have been getting tougher on those who drink and drive over the past several years. The state has lowered the acceptable blood alcohol concentration for drivers and increased penalties for DUI offenses, including passing an ignition interlock law in 2004. Some want to lower the BAC level that will cause the ignition interlock devices to prevent vehicles from starting, but others question whether that is a good idea, given Florida’s past unreliability in measuring drivers’ BAC.

Ignition interlock in Florida

Florida passed a law requiring some drivers convicted of DUI offenses to use ignition interlock devices on any vehicle they operate in 2004. The court will order those who had a BAC of 0.15 on their first DUI conviction, those with multiple DUI convictions and those who had minors in their vehicles when they committed their DUI offenses to use ignition interlock. Since the law passed, almost 65,000 people have used ignition interlock, and approximately 9,000 drivers use them currently.

When an ignition interlock device is installed in a vehicle, a driver must supply a breath sample before starting the vehicle. After about five minutes the device will beep and the driver must give another breath sample. The driver will then have to give breath samples about every 30 minutes after that. The machine records the results of the samples and transmits them to Florida DMV. If the driver’s breath sample registers a blood alcohol level of 0.05 or greater, the ignition interlock device will not allow the vehicle to start.

Pushing for lower limits

Some lawmakers believe that the acceptable BAC level for Florida ignition interlock devices is too high. The executive director of the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles announced in December 2012 she would push the state to lower the limit that drivers may not exceed from 0.05 to 0.025. Authorities note that Florida has one of the highest allowable BAC levels for ignition interlock devices, and lowering it would bring the state into accord with national standards.

Some are skeptical

Some disagree with the idea that the limits on ignition interlock devices should be lowered. They argue that many have challenged the reliability of the Intoxilyzer 8000, the breathalyzer that Florida authorities use to measure people’s BAC when arresting them for DUI. People have reported problems with the calibration of the air flow sensor on the machines, causing the devices to inaccurately measure the volume of the breath samples that people give – leading to miscalculated BAC readings and people being falsely accused of refusing to take the test because they could not supply sufficient air to make the machine recognize their samples.

Those who oppose lowering acceptable BAC limits on ignition interlock devices note that the Florida Department of Law Enforcement also issues the ignition interlock devices, and they question how reliable those devices are since the FDLE does not seem to have a successful track record of employing trustworthy technology. The margin of error on the devices is questionable, according to critics, and when the BAC level that a driver may not exceed before failing the ignition interlock device’s test is already so low, lowering it may lead to many falsely-failed tests.

If you are facing charges related to drinking and driving, talk to a DUI defense attorney with a broad history of experience handling such cases. A defense lawyer can help raise the issue of reliability of tests, as well as spot other ways that your rights may have been violated.

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