How many DUI arrests do you think there were in Florida last year? Would you be surprised to learn that there were more than 40,000? In the Tampa Bay area alone, there were nearly 11,000, according to a WTSP Channel 10 News report.
A bigger problem may be the repeat offenders. A Brandon woman was arrested three separate times within a recent week on charges of driving under the influence, according to a recent Tampa Bay Times report. Currently the Sunshine State is home to more than 113,000 people who have accumulated at least three DUI arrests. Even worse, there are more 11,600 of that group who have been arrested five times and are still able to drive.
Ellen Snelling of the Tampa Alcohol Coalition is one of the advocates seeking tougher DUI laws in Florida. She advocates than anyone who is convicted more than once of driving while impaired should have the book thrown at them.
A prominent example of Florida’s laws is Kevin Williams. In 2014, Williams was arrested for the third time for DUI. Recently, he was involved in two hit-and-run accidents within five minutes in Tampa.
Another instance of a repeat offender involves Andrew Hall. While waiting on a street corner for a ride, Hall was struck by a drunk driver. As a result, he now needs a wheel chair. The driver who hit him was Joshua West, who had been previously arrested for DUI. However, the charge was later downgraded to reckless driving.
“Joshua West’s sentence – who is physically in prison – doesn’t even touch the iceberg of what I go through now and what I will continue to go through,” Hall told the Tampa Bay Times. “Joshua West got eight years; I got a life sentence.”
Drunk drivers and their insurance companies should be held fully accountable for the harm the driver causes. Law enforcement officers may pursue criminal charges against a drunk driver, but a criminal conviction will not provide compensation for the injury victim. A person injured by a drunk driver in a traffic accident may be entitled to file a separate personal injury lawsuit seeking to recover compensation for medical bills and other expenses.
Florida had a total of 676 people killed in alcohol-related accidents in 2013, including 57 deaths in Hillsborough County and 16 in Pasco County. A family who has a loved one killed by a drunk driver may pursue a wrongful death lawsuit against the at-fault driver.
Senator Wilton Simpson of Pasco County said one solution is requiring DUI offenders to wear a bracelet that alerts the police when he or she has had any alcohol. Simpson wants the bracelets to be used in place of the breathalyzer interlock devices that are put in the cars of anyone convicted three times.
Even people who end up getting lesser charges could be made to wear the bracelet, Simpson added. That decision would ultimately lie with the judge.
One of the biggest changes to the laws in Florida would be mandatory jail time for persons with more than one DUI conviction. Currently, Florida does not mandate jail time unless someone driving drunk kills or seriously injures someone, or if it is his or her fourth DUI offense.