2,400 drivers convicted of DUI may not have to install ignition interlock devices. The devices were ordered by the State Department of Highway Safety for many convicted of dui after July 1, 2002, but a judge is telling the state it cannot order the devices without court approval.
This letter went out in January to 1,000 people convicted of DUI. It orders them to have an ignition lock that keeps a car from starting if there is a minimal presence of alcohol on the breath. The letter tells drivers they will lose their drivers license if they don't get the interlock. One north Florida woman who served her sentence hired a lawyer instead, went to court and won.
Fred Conrad, an attorney, says, "People have cut plea bargain agreements everyday and what this is like is a third party coming in and saying we don't like the plea bargain agreement that you got, so we are going to impose something on our own."
The Department of Highway Safety is stunned. The agency is considering whether to appeal. The law went into effect in July 2002, but the state was not ready to install the interlocks until February of this year.
The state says this case applies just to this one defendant, but already lawyers from across the state are calling and the defense team thinks this has the makings of a precedent.
Eddie Bauer, an attorney, says, "In the future if there are situations where the interlock was not ordered and the department thinks it should've, they don't have the right to come in and do it on their own."
Under the law anyone convicted of a second DUI, driving drunk with a child in the car or a blood level 2 and a half times the legal limit must have the interlock.
If the current case stands, the interlock will have to be part of any sentence imposed by a judge and not arbitrarily ordered by the department. Highway Safety has 30 days to appeal.