Leading Advocates Against Impaired Driving Urge Maryland Legislators to Close Loophole in Noah’s Law
ANNAPOLIS, Md. – Over the last two days, a collection of prominent advocates against impaired driving from organizations representing Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), the Washington Regional Alcohol Program (WRAP), Noah on Patrol, and Responsibility.org, testified during General Assembly committee hearings to urge passage of Senate Bill 672 and House Bill 749.
During hearings before the Senate and House committees, advocates urged lawmakers to pass legislation that aims to close the loophole in Noah’s Law, which currently doesn’t require first-time DUI offenders granted probation before judgment (PBJ) to have an ignition interlock device installed following their offense.
“While the intent of the law is clear, in practice, it falls short in one gray area. Many first-time DUI offenders in Maryland who receive probation before judgment aren’t mandated to install ignition interlocks. This is the technicality in Noah’s law,” said Distilled Spirits Council and Responsibility.org president and CEO Chris Swonger. “Passage of these bills would close this loophole and save lives.”
In 2016, Maryland Passed Noah’s Law in honor of Montgomery County Police Officer Noah Leotta, who died on December 10, 2015, a week after being struck by an impaired driver while out of his vehicle working on the alcohol task force. Noah’s Law mandates the use of ignition interlocks for convicted DUI offenders in Maryland.
“Noah’s Law was intended to require interlocking devices to be installed on the vehicles of all drunk driving offenders. However, because of Maryland’s probation before judgment clause, a lethal loophole exists that our judges are exploiting,” said Rich Leotta, father of former Montgomery County Police Officer Noah Leotta and founder of Noah on Patrol. “If a person is found guilty of drunk driving, the judge has the option of granting a PBJ on a first offense. When this happens, the offender isn’t rendered a judgment of conviction, and thereby the judge is not compelled to comply with Noah’s Law.”
Since passage of the law, which requires convicted DUI offenders to install an interlock device, there has been a 15 percent reduction in the rate of alcohol-involved crash deaths—despite the loophole.
“On behalf of the countless victims and families whose lives have been impacted by impaired drivers, we urge swift passage of SB 672 and HB 749 to ensure that ignition interlocks are mandatory for all offenders. Research shows that ignition interlocks prevent impaired driving and save lives. It is paramount Maryland lawmakers pass this bill immediately,” said Robin Stimson, Victim Services Manager, MADD Mid-Atlantic Region.
The CDC estimates that drunk drivers repeatedly drive before being detected and arrested—an average of 80 times before the first arrest.
“We must close the loophole in Noah’s Law to realize the law’s original intent that every impaired driver have an ignition interlock on their car—including people who receive Probation Before Judgement. Maryland has the chance to make its already strong interlock program one of the best in the country by passing this law,” concluded WRAP president and CEO Kurt Erikson.
The abovementioned advocates testified virtually before the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee on Tuesday, February 23 and the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, February 24.
For more information, please visit www.responsibility.org.
About Mothers Against Drunk Driving
Founded in 1980 by a mother whose daughter was killed by a drunk driver, Mothers Against Drunk Driving® (MADD) is the nation’s largest nonprofit working to end drunk driving, help fight drugged driving, support the victims of these violent crimes and prevent underage drinking. MADD has helped to save more than 390,000 lives, reduce drunk driving deaths by more than 50 percent and promote designating a non-drinking driver. MADD’s Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving® calls for law enforcement support, ignition interlocks for all offenders and advanced vehicle technology. MADD has provided supportive services to nearly one million drunk and drugged driving victims and survivors at no charge through local victim advocates and the 24-Hour Victim Help Line 1-877-MADD-HELP. Visit www.madd.org or call 1-877-ASK-MADD.
Responsibility.org is a national not-for-profit that aims to eliminate drunk driving and work with others to end all impaired driving, eliminate underage drinking, and empowers adults to make a lifetime of responsible alcohol choices as part of a balanced lifestyle. Responsibility.org is funded by the following distillers: Bacardi U.S.A., Inc.; Beam Suntory Inc.; Brown-Forman; DIAGEO; Edrington, Mast-Jägermeister US, Inc.; Moët Hennessy USA; Ole Smoky, LLC; and Pernod Ricard USA. For nearly 30 years, Responsibility.org has transformed countless lives through programs that bring individuals, families, and communities together to inspire a lifetime of responsible alcohol choices. To learn more, please visit Responsibility.org.
About Washington Regional Alcohol Program
Founded in 1982, the Maryland nonprofit [501(c)(3)] Washington Regional Alcohol Program is a coalition of diverse interests using effective education, innovative programs, and targeted advocacy to end alcohol-impaired driving and underage drinking. Through public education, innovative health education programs and advocacy, WRAP is credited with keeping the metro-Washington area’s alcohol-related traffic deaths historically lower than the national average. WRAP, however, may best be known to area residents via the organization’s popular free safe ride service to prevent drunk driving, SoberRide®. For more information, visit WRAP’s web site www.wrap.org.