Today in Sanford history (TSH), Seminole County Judge Vernon Mize handed down the first mandatory jail sentence for driving while intoxicated (DWI). It was May 1, 1962.
The Sanford Herald article doesn’t name the woman who received that first jail sentence. The newspaper described her as a “slight, brown haired woman of middle-age, wearing an aqua colored skirt and a white blouse.”
The Herald said she was “visibly shaken” when the sentence was handed down.
Jail sentences for first offense DWIs are commonplace today, but in 1962 it was considered a harsh sentence. The newspaper commented that Mize’s decision would lead to a “new age of martyrs in Seminole County.”
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The Herald went on to opine that “the people who make mouthwash and breath sweeteners can expect to do a ‘land-office’ business in Seminole County from now on, that’s for sure.”
There were articles and letters to the editor and in the Herald for several days, some criticizing and others praising Mize. The mayors of Oviedo and Longwood publicly derided the punishment.
Oviedo Mayor Lee Gary was “vehement” in his criticism the Herald reported. Lee said his city would limit first-time DWI punishments to fines and license revocations.
Longwood Mayor Allan R. Lormann, who was running for the state legislature at the time, argued that police officers weren’t capable of determining if a driver was intoxicated “within the proper medical definition of the term.”
“Who but a qualified medical doctor can make such a diagnosis?” Lormann added.
I guess the Longwood mayor never saw the inside of a bar at midnight.