Ignition Interlock in Florida: Starting Your Car After a DUI Takes More Than A Key

This article was first published March 16th, 2012. Some of the laws may have changed since this that date.

A Driving Under the Influence (DUI) conviction in Florida may carry a sentence to a term in jail, a suspended or revoked license and substantial fines. On top of that, a conviction for certain DUI offenses also requires the driver install, at his or her own expense, an ignition interlock device. After installation, a car key will not be enough to start your engine; a deep, alcohol-free breath will also be necessary.

Currently, those convicted of first offense DUI are not required to have an ignition interlock device installed unless his or her blood alcohol content (BAC) measured .15 or above or if there was a child in the car at the time of the DUI arrest. Ignition interlock systems are mandatory for repeat DUI offenders.

But, the Florida Legislature is attempting to take away the second chance currently given to first-time DUI offenders related to ignition interlock. Both the Florida House and Senate introduced bills that would essentially expand ignition interlock requirements to anyone convicted, under any circumstances, of a Florida DUI. House Bill 861, dubbed the Matthew William Beard and Grace Redgate Act, and Senate Bill 864 failed to make it past the Criminal Justice Committee this year. Although neither will become law this session, both are an indication of potentially harsher treatment for drunk driving in the future.

Installation of an Ignition Interlock Device in Florida

Florida has two approved ignition interlock vendors – Interlock Group of Florida (LifeSafer Interlock, Inc.), serving Northern Florida and Interlock Systems of Florida (Alcohol Countermeasure Systems Corp.), serving Central and Southern Florida, including Orlando.

A person convicted of drunk driving and ordered to install an ignition interlock is required to pay for the system and its installation by one of the approved vendors. The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles calls this a “user funded” system. Those who must install an ignition interlock system can expect to pay:

  • $12 – ignition interlock fee
  • $70 – ignition interlock installation fee
  • $100 – a refundable deposit on the ignition interlock system or a $5 monthly insurance charge
  • $67.50 – a per month charge for calibration of the ignition interlock system and data reporting

If convicted of a first-time DUI offense, a driver may be required to install an ignition interlock system for a minimum of six months if his or her BAC registered .15 or higher, or if his or her BAC was at or above .08 and someone under 18-years-old was also in the car at the time of the offense (DUI with child). That’s almost $500, plus a $100 deposit, in addition to any other fees, penalties or increased insurance premiums for a DUI conviction, assuming the interlock device is required to be installed on only one car.

The mandatory minimum time periods for an ignition interlock system only go up from there:

  • At least one year – second DUI conviction
  • At least two years – second DUI if BAC at or above .15, second DUI if BAC at or above .08 with a child (under 18 years old) in the car at the time of the offense or third DUI conviction
  • At least five years – four or more DUI convictions

An ignition interlock device will prevent a vehicle from being started if the driver blows over .05. Interlock devices are also set up to conduct ‘rolling retests’ of the driver’s BAC, meaning that the driver will be required to blow into the system at random intervals while the car is running.

Florida DUI Penalties – When is Enough Enough?

The Centers for Disease Control reported in 2011 that ignition interlock devices curb repeat-DUI arrests: re-arrests for drunk driving decreased by over 65 percent for those with an ignition interlock device versus a suspended driver’s license. At least 13 states require an ignition interlock device for anyone convicted of a drunk driving offense and at least half of states have some type of ignition interlock requirement, for repeat offenders or those who had an extremely high BAC.

But how much is too much? Where should law makers draw the line in punishing drunk driving offenses? Even if no one is injured, a first time DUI conviction can end up costing the driver thousands of dollars in fines and penalties. A 6 month to 1 year license suspension for a first offense Florida DUI can make it difficult to get to work, run necessary errands, take children to or from school and many other daily activities for which transportation is essential.

There is Such a Thing as a Second Chance in Florida

An experienced Orlando DUI defense lawyer who believes in second chances may be able to develop a defense strategy to fight Florida DUI charges before a DUI conviction changes your life. With penalties for even a first offense as severe as they are, or as they may become should universal ignition interlock legislation pass at some later time in Florida, if you’re questioning whether you can afford a DUI lawyer, you might want to consider if you can afford not to have an Orlando DUI defense attorney on your side.