ANNAPOLIS, Md. - It was a big step forward for a proposed Maryland bill named after a Montgomery County police officer who was killed by a suspected drunk driver. Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced he is supporting “Noah's Law,” which honors late police officer Noah Leotta.
The bill will require breathalyzer ignition locks for convicted drunk drivers that will keep their cars from starting if their blood alcohol content is over the limit.
In a letter Hogan wrote to Leotta's parents, the governor said Noah's Law would send "a strong message" that the state won't allow drunk drivers to put others at risk.
Under current Maryland law, if you are convicted of drunk driving with a blood alcohol content level of .15 – nearly twice the legal limit – you are required to have an ignition interlock device for your vehicle. The proposed bill aims to change that requirement to those who have a BAC of .08 or higher.
Officer Leotta's family and other law enforcement officials are pushing hard for the change.
"Too many people are dying on Maryland roadways at the hands of drunk drivers,” said Montgomery County Police Chief Thomas Manger. “The state of Maryland has weak laws dealing with drunk driving and even weaker penalties."
Police and supporters packed a Maryland Senate hearing on Thursday in Annapolis. At a rally beforehand, victims of drunk driving also spoke out in strong support for the bill which passed a Maryland House Committee last week.
Officer Leotta was working on a Montgomery County Police Drunk Driving Task Force on the night he was struck by suspected drunk driver, who had been drinking at a Rockville restaurant.
The bill's sponsor, Maryland State Sen. Jamie Raskin (D-Montgomery County), said while Maryland does have a breathalyzer interlock law on the books, that law does not have any teeth. You need to be nearly twice the legal limit of being drunk to need one.
"Is there an acceptable level of drunk driving fatalities in the state of Maryland?” he asked. “Surely there cannot be. Surely we can't accept 130 of our brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, sons and daughters dying on the highways. There is no excuse for it today.”
There was also another big name here who is now throwing his support behind Noah’s Law – Maryland Senate President Mike Miller.
However, time is running out. The legislative session ends on April 11.