LEE COUNTY, Fla. - A possible change in Florida law could put repeat drunk drivers back behind the wheel.
It's part of a larger highway safety bill that won unanimous support in Tallahassee, but also picked up backing from state leaders with Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
Right now in Florida, after four DUI convictions, the offender's license is gone forever. The changes in House Bill 971 would give those repeat offenders a chance to petition for the right to drive again after 10 years (starting this fall) and as little as five years beginning in 2011.
"Driving is a privilege, and I think you lost it after four DUIs," said one opponent to the law change.
DUI attorney Joe Viacava says the plan appropriately provides several restrictions, like completing DUI programs, being drug-free and keeping a clean criminal record.
"The bill doesn't say that you automatically get your license back, its on case-by-case basis, where certain evidence gets presented why the person should or should not have their license," Viacava said.
Under the plan, the first year's return to the wheel would only be allowed for commuting to work.
"We have personally seen a lot of hardships that this would be very fair for," Viacava said.
State leaders with Florida's MADD organization have surprised some by supporting the change, saying thousands of dui convicts drive without a license anyway. They argue the new law would give the state more control, by also requiring a breathlyzer to be connected to the offender's car that can keep it from starting if the driver has been drinking.
Several other groups in the state are upset with MADD's support, started petitions of their own asking the governor to veto the DUI changes.
"By four DUIs I think you should have learned your lesson by now," said an opponent to the change.
The bill approved by the legislature has yet to arrive on Governor Crist's desk for his decision on a signature or veto.