Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year's Eve

As 2009 draws to a close and 2010 is on the horizon, I would like to wish everyone a Happy New Year from and the Interstate 275 Florida Blog.

With New Years Eve quickly approaching and New Years Day on the horizon, there is going to be plenty of people out and about celebrating the end of 2009 and the beginning of 2010. However, the most common danger of New Years Eve as far as Interstate 275 is concerned is drinking and driving. Here is a comment I made to a story that Bay News 9 had on tips to celebrate New Years Eve safely (I have expanded on more information that you will only find on this blog entry), and I am posting this here as a public service:

If you plan on celebrating New Years Eve and plan on drinking, please either designate a driver, call a taxi to take you home or if you have a hotel room (or a friend's place) to spend the night, do so.

As this article on Bay News 9 proves, the Florida Highway Patrol (along with sheriffs and police agencies in the Tampa Bay region) will be patrolling major roads including Interstate 275. If you are caught, expect to ring in the new year wearing a pair of steel nickel plated handcuffs (double locked and behind your back), being placed in the back seat of the cruiser, and being transported to the county jail depending on where you are caught - at least until you are sober enough. That means you will not be able to bond out until you are sober enough.

The legal limit in the State of Florida is .08

Add to that fines, court costs, attorneys fees, driver license revocation, possible jail term depending on your record, and absolutely no withholding of adjudication of guilt - if you're caught and convicted, it will haunt your driving record for the rest of your life as Florida law prohibits judges from withholding adjudication of guilt on DUI.

Let's look at these a little closely with a little help from the folks over at the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles at their DUI information page. This is if you are caught for the first time:

Fines: Not less than $500 and not more than $1,000. If you blow a .15 or more on the breathalyzer then the fines increase to not less than $1,000 and not more than $2,000. That's a couple car loan payments for starters.

Community Service: Mandatory 50 hours of community service or additional fine at the rate of $10 per hour. Imagine spending your weekends at some kind of community service project rather than doing something you like, and you got to work during the week.

Imprisonment: Up to 6 months in the county jail at the discretion of the judge. If you blow a .15 or more on the breathalyzer then it's up to 9 months. Do you want to spend half a year at least in a facility where your freedom of movement is restricted and in a jail cell? Those jail cell locks are not your typical house locks.

Probation: Up to one year, which can include a mixture of both imprisonment and probation.

DUI School: Mandatory DUI school before you get your drivers license back, no ifs, ands or buts. DUI school can be quite costly!

Impoundment of Motor Vehicle: Your vehicle is taken away from you for 10 days, and don't expect to get it back if the judge send you to jail for DUI. The 10 days start when you are released, not when you are sentenced. Imagine that luxury SUV you like so much is now impounded all because of your decision.

Property Damage: If you damage any property while you are under the influence, then the charges become a first degree Misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 and/or up to one year in the county jail.

Bodily Injury as a result of DUI: Now we're talking serious Felony charges. Fines of up to $5,000 and/or up to five years in the custody of the Florida Department of Corrections. You got that right, state correctional institution.

Loss of Life as a result of DUI: This is a very serious matter here. Now we're talking second degree Felony charges with a $10,000 fine and/or 15 years in the custody of the Florida Department of Corrections. This is DUI/Manslaughter. Just ask the man in Tampa who took my grandmother's life on 25 May 1990 on South Westshore Blvd and West Leila Avenue.

Drivers License: At least six months revocation of your driving privilege. That means your ticket to drive is taken away from you. However, if you are convicted of DUI/Manslaughter then the drivers license revocation is permanent.

Driving Record: If you are convicted of DUI, you are adjudicated guilty of DUI. That means you will have a DUI record for the rest of your life, as Florida law prohibits judges from withholding adjudication of guilt for any DUI offense. This means your insurance rates will go right through the roof, so much that some insurance companies have the right to refuse to insure you. This also means you can lose your job and have plenty of difficulty finding another job (after all, nearly all employment applications ask you if you have been convicted of a crime including DUI).

And one more thing, while we're on the subject of driving record and DUI: You will not be able to visit Canada for a period of time if you are convicted of DUI in Florida or another state. From what I understand DUI in Canada is an indictable (felony) offense. Want proof? See the Citizenship and Immigration Canada website for more information on the impact of travel to Canada following a DUI conviction.

Finally, the cost of drunk driving can be a lot more than the Florida Highway Patrol trooper (or sheriff deputy or police officer) that arrests you and the jail, court date and fines/probation/jail that follow after conviction - it can be deadly and it can have lifetime consequences as described above.

Please, folks, do yourself a favor and if you had even one drink, don't get behind the wheel and drive! Let's start 2010 on the right note!


franklined said...

Your driving record affects your Florida auto insurance if you have a bad driving record. Getting a great and clean driving record is the way to cheap Florida auto insurance rates.

Edward Ringwald said...

franklined, you proved a great point!

A DUI conviction from what I understand stays on your record for 75 years. Even after you have paid your fines, attended school, served your probation and so on that DUI conviction will continue to haunt you on your record. As I mentioned in my post there is no withholding of adjudication on DUI cases, as judges are forbidden to do so per Florida law.

Edward Ringwald said...

Another thing I forgot to mention while we're on the subject of driver records and DUI: Not only your record is reviewed if you get auto insurance, it is also reviewed if you apply for a job (especially if it's driving related) and even if you rent a car.

And speaking of renting a car, the major car rental agencies do check driving records. All they need to refuse to rent to you is something major on your driving record such as a DUI.

The message is clear: Don't drink and drive.