You might have made the choice to drink and drive, but you don’t get to make a lot of choices after you’re arrested for driving under the influence (DUI). Most states will require you to pay fines, potentially spend time in jail, and cover the cost of a ignition interlock device for a period of time, but there’s a county in Florida that’s trying something new – they’re giving drunk drivers a choice.
Palm Beach County, Florida is the setting for a program designed to keep streets safe while easing up on tough DUI penalties for offenders. The DUI Diversion program launched on June 1st, 2013 and has been endorsed by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), but don’t think it’s easy street for offenders who choose to drink and drive – the requirements for the program are tougher than those you would face for a first time DUI conviction in Florida.
DUI laws in Florida require first offenders to pay fines up to $1000, lose their license for six months, potentially spend time in jail, and have their vehicle impounded for 10 days. If the offender registers a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) at the time of arrest, they must also install an ignition interlock for six months. With the DUI diversion program, the first step is for the offender to plead guilty to a second-degree misdemeanor reckless driving charge instead of a first-degree misdemeanor.
The offender will not lose their license, receive a conviction on their record, or have points added to their license, but in lieu of that they must pay for several alcohol monitoring devices, including an ignition interlock device, for three to six months. They will also be required to adhere to the following penalties:
- Probation for one year
- Pay fines up to $500
- Lose their vehicle for 10 days
- Complete 50 to 75 hours of community service
- Attend DUI school
- Submit to random drug testing
Violating the terms of the diversion program are severe. If the participant triggers their ignition interlock or other alcohol monitoring device, they could spend 90 days in jail. That might be why there are currently only 1,000 participants in a county where there were 2,500 driving under the influence arrests in 2013.
Yes, it’s a strict program, but the DUI diversion program is well worth the effort for offenders in Florida. For more information on ignition interlock devices in Florida, visit Guardian Interlock’s Florida state page.