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Are Florida's DUI laws set to become even tougher?

According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the number of arrests for driving under the influence here in Florida have declined dramatically in recent years. Indeed, the group determined that the number of DUI arrests in the Sunshine State has plummeted from a record high of 60,574 reached back in 2002 to 40,677 in 2014.

While some credit this decline to an increased awareness on the part of motorists about the dangers of impaired driving, others argue that it can be traced to the unwavering efforts of state lawmakers to make the state's already tough DUI laws that much tougher.

Regardless of what's behind the drop in arrests, there is no denying that the state is adopting an increasingly draconian stance toward driving under the influence.

Indeed, consider the recent filing of House Bill 555 by Rep. Scott Plakon (R-Longwood) and Senate Bill 1244, its legislative companion filed by Sen. David Simmons (R-Altamonte Springs).  

If passed, this legislation would greatly enhance the existing penalties for refusing a blood, breath or urine test, which currently dictate that a first-offense will result in a one year license suspension, and a second- or subsequent will result in an 18-month license suspension.

Specifically, the legislation calls for the following:

  • Anyone who refuses a sobriety test for the first time would be fined $500 to $1,000, have four points assessed against their driving record and be placed on six months probation.
  • Anyone who refuses a sobriety test for a second or subsequent time would be charged with a first-degree misdemeanor punishable by a fine of $1,000 and a year in prison. They would also be required to pay for the installation of an ignition interlock device on their vehicle for one year.
  • Judges would be prohibited from withholding or suspending these penalties.

It remains to be seen whether this sobriety test legislation gains traction in Tallahassee. It's worth noting, however, that the influential Florida Council for Safe Communities has already voiced its support.

Stay tuned for updates.

If you've been arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence, please consider speaking with an experienced legal professional as soon as possible.

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