Noah’s Law – helpful or hurtful?

The anti-DUI lobby in Maryland has put together a massive effort to pass HB 1342/SB 942 called the Drunk Driving Reduction Act of 2016 – Noah’s Law, in memory of Montgomery County police officer Noah Leotta, who was killed by a suspected drunk driver last December.  The bill proposes a number of changes to Maryland law.

  • MVA penalties for a test result of 0.08 or more but less than 0.15 would be increased from a suspension of 45 days on a first offense and 90 days on a second or subsequent offense would be increased to 90 and 180 days respectively. Critically, instead of first offenders being able to drive with a permit restricted for work, education, alcohol education, or medical purposes, all of these drivers would be required to install an ignition interlock for this period of time.
  • MVA penalties for a test result of 0.15 or more would be increased from a suspension of 90 days on a first offense and 180 days on a second or subsequent offense would be increased to 180 and 270 days respectively.  Instead of ignition interlock being optional for these offenders, it would now be mandatory.
  • MVA penalties for a refusal would be increased from a suspension of 120 days on a first offense and one year on a second or subsequent offense would be increased to 270 days and one year respectively.
  • The proposed bills increase the length of suspensions that shall be imposed after convictions for DUI, and require ignition interlocks for those periods of time.
  • The proposed bill requires that offenders who are initially charged with DUI and end up with a conviction for negligent driving participate in the ignition interlock program.

There are a number of problems with Noah’s Law.

  • Perhaps the biggest complaint about Noah’s Law is that it unfairly targets first offenders who are either at or only slightly over the legal limit.  Many of these drivers are social drinkers who are unlikely to reoffend at all, not to mention in the year following their arrest.  The proponents of Noah’s law offered statistics to the legislature showing the number of times that the interlock has caught drivers attempting to drive drunk.  However, this data does not reflect the drivers targeted by this law.  There was no data showing the number of social drinkers who repeat within the first 6 months after their first arrest.  In this author’s experience, such occurrences are extremely rare.  So the law is punishing social drinkers, the vast majority of whom will not ever drink and drive again, and certainly not within the first 6 months after their first arrest.
  • Another problem with interlocks is the program is both too broad and too narrow at the same time. The requirement is too broad in that people who cannot afford an interlock or for whom an interlock requirement would be unnecessarily devastating, such as CDL holders, or non-vehicle owners, would be unfairly stuck.  The requirement would serve as a permanent preclusion from ever getting a license again.  There needs to be discretion.  The requirements as currently enforced are too narrow because out of state residents from Virginia, West Virginia, D.C., Delaware and Pennsylvania, who work in Maryland are unable to qualify for the program in Maryland and must take a suspension instead.
  • The bill also contains an interlock requirement for defendants who have DUI charges reduced to reckless or negligent driving. This makes no sense at all.  Would this apply if the negligent is amended from a speeding or other count?  What if the charge is reduced to an unsafe lane change?  And doesn’t the reduction reflect an acknowledgment that the State lacks sufficient evidence to prosecute the charge?  The punishment must fit the crime and this proposal does not.

If you are facing criminal or traffic charges in Maryland state or federal court, call Leonard R. Stamm of Goldstein & Stamm, P.A. at 301-345-0122 for a free consultation.

Leonard R. Stamm
Goldstein & Stamm, P.A.
6301 Ivy Lane, Suite 504
Greenbelt, MD 20770
(fax) 301-441-4652
Dean, National College for DUI Defense



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