An 18-year-old University of Central Florida student was recently arrested recently after she hit a trooper while driving drunk and drove away. Car accident lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm note that punishments for first-offenders, such as the UCF student, are getting tougher in many states throughout the country.
The Florida trooper was outside of his car investigating a hit-and-run that had taken place just minutes before when the student struck him, injuring his left leg. Realizing what she’d done, the student sped westbound down University Boulevard. The trooper immediately got in his car and followed her, lights and siren on. She finally pulled over at Suntree Boulevard, handcuffed her, and had her perform several field-sobriety tests, all of which she failed.
The student’s BAC was measured first at 0.139, and then later at 0.143, which means she chose to drive just minutes after taking her last drinks of alcohol. She was ultimately charged with a DUI involving property damage and leaving the scene of a crash involving injury.
The trooper’s car door was so badly damaged that he had to climb into his car through the window to follow her down University Boulevard. He was later treated at Florida Hospital East and released the same day. The freshman student told police that she had been at UCF dorms with some friends that night watching movies, and stated that she was drinking only orange juice.
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In related news, legislators in South Carolina are proposing a bill that will require all first-offense DUI drivers to install ignition interlocks. All states currently have some type of ignition interlock law, and 17 states (and four counties in California) have made the interlocks mandatory for all convicted DUI offenders. The bill just recently passed in the South Carolina Senate by an overwhelming vote of 41 to 0.
South Carolina currently requires the interlock devices only for those drivers with more than one DUI conviction. Ignition interlocks are installed in car ignitions, and require the driver to blow into them before the car can be started; if the driver has a BAC of .02 or higher, the car will not start.
One family, the Longstreet’s, were at the Statehouse to urge politicians to pass the bill. On New Year’s Day 2012, the family – with their four children – was driving to church when their car was struck by a drunk driver, believed to still be intoxicated from the night before. Their daughter was killed in the crash. The driver that killed the little girl had one previous DUI, and the Longstreet’s are advocating that, had this bill been in effect on that day, the interlock devices may have stopped him from driving at all that morning.
Some, however, see a few flaws in the bill. One Senator tried to stall the bill’s passing, asking his fellow senators how someone with a leased vehicle would install the device, and what would prevent offenders from using a family or friend’s car to bypass the interlocks.
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Advocates stated that the devices would include a camera, to ensure that the person blowing into the interlocks were the offender themselves, not someone they asked to blow for them. The bill would also heighten the penalties for those who do not install the locks when ordered. Currently, the penalties for such a refusal are a fine of $300 and/or 10 to 30 days jail time. The bill would heighten the fine to $500 and/or 90 days in jail or six months home detention.
The new bill would also make third offenses felonies, with fines upwards of $5,000 and threats of jail time up to ten years and home detention for three years. Those offenders would also require the interlock devices for three years. All offenders would have to pay out-of-pocket for the devices, which cost about $130 a month.
Auto accident attorneys at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm hope these efforts significantly decrease the number of injuries and fatalities caused by drunk drivers. If you or someone you loved was seriously injured by a drunk driver, it is important to retain an experienced lawyer as soon as possible.