Florida DUI ignition interlock bill passes House committee

State Rep. Cord Byrd, R-Neptune Beach, proposed legislation

A bill that would require an ignition interlock device on someone's vehicle after their first drunken driving conviction has passed its first committee in the Florida House of Representatives.

The interlock device prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking.

State Rep. Cord Byrd, R-Neptune Beach, proposed the House Bill 949, which passed the Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Tuesday. It must go through two more committees before reaching the House floor.

RELATED: Lawmaker wants ignition interlocks for first-time DUI offenders

The current law makes it mandatory for six months for a first offense if the person's blood alcohol content is higher than 0.15 percent or a minor is in the vehicle. The devices are also mandatory for multiple DUIs.

But the new legislation would encourage first-time offenders to use the interlock devices for six months in exchange for having the DUI disappear from their records. Byrd told committee members a second offense would bring harsh penalties.

“To be eligible for a withhold, the first-time offender cannot have a prior criminal history," Byrd said. "The withhold would allow the first-time DUI offender to have his or her DUI records sealed, so they would be able to not report that on an employment application, however law enforcement would still have access to the information such that the person is arrested again for DUI, that would show up on their record.”

In Jacksonville Beach, where there are plenty of bars, many people told News4Jax that they feel the legislation is fair. 

"It's not bad. Some people make mistakes. I've been there and I have made mistakes throughout my life, so everyone deserves a chance," Rebecca Parrish said.

Chris White said he also agrees with the legislation. 

"I think it's a win-win. One, you shouldn't be drinking and driving," he said. "And it's good for taxpayers in the local area and also it will help keep reoffenders from doing it again if they have to pay to get it in their car."

There are approximately 9,000 interlock devices active in Florida at any given time. The devices cost offenders about $3 a day.

If HB 949 passes, Florida would join 28 other states and the District of Columbia, which have similar laws.