Drunk Drivers Beware: Florida's Zero Tolerance DUI Bill Clears the Senate

Drunk Drivers Beware: Florida's Zero Tolerance DUI Bill Clears the Senate

Florida introduces new penalties for refusing a breathalyzer test, cracking down on high DUI rates in the state

Liv Caputo
Liv Caputo
March 2, 2024

TALLAHASSEE, FL—The option to refuse a breathalyzer test has been all but removed with a new anti-drunk driving bill that passed the Senate Floor Friday afternoon, threatening first-time offenders with license suspension or a year-long interlock device.

Proposed by Republican Sen. Nick DiCeglie, SB 260 punishes drunk drivers who want to refuse a blood, urine, or breath test. A refusal will now be met with one of two options: a year-long suspension of the driver's license, or the year-long installation of an ignition interlock device (IID)—a handheld breathalyzer installed in car ignitions to prevent users from starting their vehicle after drinking alcohol.

"I encourage all Floridians not to drive drunk," Sen. DiCeglie said on the Senate Floor. "We have a 35 percent rate in the state of folks who refuse to take this breathalyzer test. It's about 15% higher than the national average. We're trying to save lives at the end of the day, we're trying to point out that driving is a privilege."

The bill also requires the Department of Highway Safety to publish how many individuals refuse a breathalyzer, and how many choose an IID. If an individual refuses one of these tests but is found not guilty of a DUI in court, they are still subject to a suspended license or an IID installation.

Under current law, the refusal to submit to one of these tests is already a one-year license suspension—this bill adds in the option for an IID as an extra punitive measure. Democratic Sen. Jason Pizzo supported the bill, but not before raising concerns about potential loopholes and future actions.

"I just want to be mindful of things that we have to take care of, [such as] drug addicts who are on the road and can kill our kids just as easily will have an interlock device that doesn't speak to or correlate to any of the actual underlying issues that caused the impairment in the first place," Pizzo said. He then voiced his support for the legislation, disclosing that his grandmother was killed by a drunk driver,

He continued, stating that the option for an IID instead of a suspended license could allow "people to buy their way out of a suspension."

According to Florida Law Enforcement, over 44,000 DUI citations were written in 2022, pointing to a glaring problem in the Sunshine State.

Nonetheless, the bill passed in a 32-1 vote. Its House companion is waiting to be seen on the House Floor.

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Liv Caputo

Liv Caputo

Livia Caputo is a senior at Florida State University, working on a major in Criminology, and a triple minor in Psychology, Communications, and German. She has been working on a journalism career for the past year, and hopes to become a successful reporter after graduation. Her work has been cited in Fox News, the New York Post, and the Daily Mail

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