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High-Level Drunken Drivers Facing Stiffer Penalties

In a new campaign, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is cracking down on drunk drivers who pose a higher risk. These drivers fall into one of two categories:

  • Those with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .15 percent or more
  • Those who have a prior DUI/DWI arrest in the past 10 years

NTSB data estimates that up to 70 percent of all alcohol-related car accident fatalities involved these types of drivers. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) provides more insight: roughly 8,000 of the nearly 11,000 road deaths last year were caused by high-level drunk drivers.

The NTSB's approach to slowing the rate of car accident injuries and deaths caused by drunk drivers is a comprehensive one, and it involves 11 separate guidelines that, as of yet, have not been adopted in their entirety by any single state. The NTSB suggests:

  • Statewide DWI enforcement checkpoints
  • Administrative license revocation for both refusing blood alcohol tests or failing them
  • State and local municipal cooperation to ensure enforcement of DWI-related driver's license suspension or revocation
  • Individualized sanctions for high-level drunk drivers that go above and beyond standard sentencing guidelines
  • Vehicle-based sanctions like the installation of ignition interlock systems to prohibit drinking drivers from getting behind the wheel
  • In tandem with vehicle-based sanctions, requiring that all DWI offenders keep a zero percent BAC while driving any motor vehicle
  • Retention of driving while intoxicated (DWI) arrest records and allowing for DWI-related sentencing enhancements for a minimum of 10 years
  • Elimination of diversion programs for DWI offenders, including the ability to expunge/erase/defer/purge a DWI conviction from a criminal record
  • Defining aggravated drunk driving offenses (those over .15 percent BAC) as aggravated offenses under the law and punishing them accordingly
  • Closing legal loopholes that allow for DWI-related offenses to be plea bargained down to lesser charges not specifically involving alcohol
  • Offering alternatives to confinement (like house arrest with electronic monitoring) that will keep offenders off the streets for a period of time after a DUI/DWI conviction

Florida's Perspective

The State of Florida has adopted many of the NTSB's recommendations including the establishment of random sobriety checkpoints, enhanced sentencing guidelines for high-BAC drunk drivers, prohibition of diversion programs for DWI offenders, alternatives to traditional confinement and revoking the driving privileges of those who fail blood alcohol testing or refuse to be tested.

Though ongoing efforts of the NTSB, NHTSA and the well-known Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) non-profit organization have decreased the rate at which high-level drunk drivers are involved in fatal car accidents, thousands of people die on the roadways each year.

In a Catch-22-type situation, the noble strides of law enforcement seeking to reduce roadway deaths have the ability to unfairly punish drivers who made an innocent mistake. If you or a loved one has been charged with a Florida DWI/DUI offense, consult an experienced criminal defense attorney in your area for more information about your legal rights and options you have for defending yourself.

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