ROCKVILLE – A new law intended to curb drunken driving went into effect in Maryland on October 1, 10 months after a drunk driver struck and killed Montgomery County Police Officer Noah Leotta.
“Noah’s Law” expands the ignition interlock installation requirements of those convicted of drunk driving. The devices require the driver to take a breathalyzer test prior to driving.
If the driver has a blood alcohol level above a predetermined amount the vehicle will not start thus keeping an inebriated driver off the streets.
According to David McBain, deputy director of the Police Traffic Division, police increased driving under the influence (DUI) arrests between 2014 and 2016.
In an email, McBain said there were 2,004 arrests occurred in 2014, 2,091 in 2015, and 2,113 in 2016.
“We’ve been fighting for a decade to get this law expanded,” said state Sen. Jamie Raskin (D-20), who sponsored Noah’s Law along with Del. Ben Kramer (D-19). “The whole motivation has been to save families from the catastrophe of drunk driving.”
Statistically, research has shown ignition interlock devices to save lives and reduce the amount of drunk driving related deaths and injuries.
According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), nine states have seen a decrease in drunk driving related deaths ranging from 14 to 50 percent.
“We looked at a few states including New Mexico and Arizona and since the passage of Noah’s Law, several states in our area of the country have looked to Maryland’s leadership on the issue,” said Raskin, who is running for Congress in Maryland’s eighth district.
Montgomery County Police spokesperson Rick Goodale said the law has widespread support.
“We have received nothing but positive comments,” said Goodale. “Police are always in favor of any measure to successfully remove impaired drivers from the roads”
Jeremy Eldridge, a Baltimore-based attorney with a part-time practice in Montgomery County, pointed out the law will also impact the way drunken driving cases are handled.
“The thing that will change is the administrative hearing process for first-time refusals”
Eldridge noted there is likely to be an increase in the amount of people charged with drunken driving offenses opting into the interlock device program when they face an administrative law judge prior to the criminal trial.
“The state is trying to incentivize people to go for the devices while also deterring breathalyzer refusals,” said Eldridge. “Opting to go the device route can show the judge the defendant is taking the case seriously”
Goodale said the police department “expects the law will make Maryland roads safer and lower fatalities involving impaired drivers by preventing repeat offenders from operating a vehicle while impaired.”
“Through education on drunk driving, my hope is that the word will go out,” said Raskin.