Daily Record: “Md. lawmakers plan bill to close ‘Noah’s Law’ loophole”

As the Daily Record reported yesterday (Jan. 23, 2019), a bill will be introduced in the Maryland legislature to expand Noah’s Law (named after Noah Leotta – a police officer killed by a drunk driver) to require an ignition interlock be installed as a condition of a probation before judgment.  Currently, first offenders who blow a .15 or higher, or refuse to submit to a breath or blood test are required to obtain an ignition interlock for one year or have their licenses suspended for 180 or 270 days respectively (for a first test failure or refusal).  If the driver submits to a test with a result of .08 or more but less than .15, the 180 day interlock is optional.  That person may elect instead to drive with a permit that allows driving for work, school, medical, or alcohol education restricted driving privileges.  Currently, some first offenders escape the interlock where they win the MVA hearing for a test failure or refusal, or if they have an out of state driver’s license.

There are some significant problems with the proposal, such as dealing with individuals who share cars with family members, who don’t own a car, who have to drive clients to earn a living or who live out of state.  Currently, out of state drivers are not allowed to participate in Maryland’s ignition interlock program.  This can be a devastating problem for drivers who live out of state and work in Maryland.  Additionally, the law would deprive judges of the discretion to deny interlock in an appropriate case.  This was the decision the legislature made a few years ago when Noah’s Law was enacted.  Also commercial drivers are not allowed to drive commercial vehicles while their licenses are restricted in this way.

As the Daily Record reported:

But attorney Leonard R. Stamm, who defends alleged drunk drivers, objected to the coming legislation.

Imposing an ignition interlock as a probation-before-judgment condition would improperly restrain judicial discretion and could stigmatize motorists for whom driving is essential to their livelihoods, said Stamm, author of Maryland DUI Law (published by Thomson West).

“In general, it is a mistake to take discretion away from judges,” he added. “There are many cases in which first offenders would unfairly be forced out of their jobs under the proposed legislation.”

For example, ride-share drivers and real estate agents would lose clients and customers unwilling to be in a car equipped with an ignition interlock system, he said. Commercial drivers would be ineligible to work as a result of the court-ordered restriction, he added.

“There are going to be individual cases where such a harsh result is not fair or warranted,” said Stamm, of Goldstein & Stamm P.A. in Greenbelt.