Is There a Link Between Florida Drunk Driving Accidents be Linked to License Reinstatements? More Studies Are NeededSunday, February 20th, 2011
A local news station in Lee County, Florida recently ran an investigative series into Florida drunk driving accidents and DUI incidents. Reporters found that in many cases drivers caught on DUI charges are getting their licenses back and are being allowed to drive again quickly after being ticketed for DUI.
Under Florida law, drivers who have been accused of DUI are allowed to have an administrative hearing with the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. This hearing occurs before the DUI trial and allows the defendants to argue for their license. While Florida law allows officers to immediately take away the license of someone who is accused of DUI, these hearings, according to investigative reporters, gave back licenses to hundreds of people in Southern Florida in just a three month period.
Someone who is accused of driving under the influence has ten days to request an administrative hearing. At the hearing, officers decide whether to invalidate the license suspension and return the driver’s license. According to investigative reports, in 2009 more than 5200 drivers in Florida received their licenses back due to these hearings. In some cases, drivers had been impaired and had been unable to pass a breathalyzer test but had their licenses reinstates because police officers failed to follow testing standards or guidelines when administering the tests.
In some cases, arresting officers did not appear at the administrative hearings, which also allowed the drivers to have their licenses reinstated. Florida is changing that particular law. After July 2010, a driver does not automatically have his or her license reinstated if the arresting officer does not show up at a DMV administrative hearing. As well, police authorities are cracking down on police officers who fail to show up for the hearings.
The investigative report does suggest the importance of good communication between the DMV and authorities. While DMV administrative hearings do not have a bearing on criminal DUI trials – that is, someone who has a license reinstated at a DMV hearing may still be found guilty at a criminal DUI trial – the case is troubling for motorists. This is because it does suggest that drivers who may cause Florida car accidents due to DUI may be back on the roads – legally – after drinking and driving. The DMV hearings are intended to give drivers a fair chance to get their licenses back but more studies need to be done to determine whether reinstatements are leading to more Florida car accidents.