Advocates push for strongest form of Noah's Law

Posted at 6:09 PM, Mar 31, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-31 18:09:47-04

Noah's Law, a bill named after Montgomery County police officer Noah Leotta, 24, who was killed by a drunk driver in the line of duty last December, is nearing the governor's desk.

A bill of this kind has been more than seven years in the making, but this is the farthest it's gone.

Versions of the bill passed in the House and Senate. The differences will be worked out in a conference committee before the final version is sent to Gov. Larry Hogan for his approval.

“We need to make sure that Noah can continue to protect and serve the public that's what he loved to do that's what this law would do, said Rich Leotta, Officer Leotta’s father.

The legislation would expand ignition interlocks for all convicted drunk drivers in Maryland with a blood alcohol level of .08 or greater. Supporters are urging lawmakers to pass the strongest form of the bill that saves the most lives.

“The House version has opportunities to evade getting the interlock on the car,” Leotta said.

Under the House bill, a driver who refuses to take a Breathalyzer test could get their license suspended up to 270 days, but an interlock would not be required.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) advocates and other law enforcement leaders do not support that provision.

Instead, they’re in favor of the Senate version of the bill that includes a 270-day suspension and interlock period for drivers that refuse the test, as well as the Senate provision that requires no drunk driving failures for the final three months of an interlock period. They also recommend that legislators raise the 90-day license suspension and 90-day interlock period approved in the Senate bill to 180 days for both.

“Now we just need to come up with the best most succinct bill, the strongest legislation that we can get and I think we're going to see both the House and the Senate work to get that bill out,” said Lisa Spicknall, the state program director for MADD Maryland.

Lawmakers have until April 11 to agree on a final version of the bill. Hogan has already expressed his support of the legislation.

Leotta said he was pleased to see the bill pass both chambers, but he’s urging legislators to take action to get the final approval of the bill this session.

“It shouldn’t have taken seven years, it shouldn't have taken my son Noah to have been executed at the hands of a drunk driver that's would it shouldn't have taken, it should've been done long before this,” Leotta said.

Under Maryland’s current law, ignition interlock devices are required for repeat offenders and convicted drunk drivers with a blood alcohol content of point .15 and above. 

Twenty-five other states have laws similar to Noah’s Law already in place that impact all DUI offenders.

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