Maryland drunk driving law has loophole that needs to be closed, advocates say

The family of a Montgomery County police officer who was killed by a drunk driver says the law bearing his name to stop drunk driving has a massive loophole that needs to be closed.

Seven years ago, Montgomery County Police Officer Noah Leotta was killed by a drunk driver while assigned to a drunk driving task force. This prompted Maryland's "Noah's Law" which aimed to put breathalyzer locks on the cars of people who have driven drunk.

However, advocates say the law is deeply flawed.

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Noah's Law originally said people "arrested" for drunk driving must use an ignition breathalyzer interlock, but was later changed to "convicted" of drunk driving.

That loophole means even if someone pleads guilty to drunk driving, a judge can grant "probation before conviction" and no interlock is required.

Victims' families who have lost loved ones say that is wrong.

"A drunk driver hit us going approximately 125 miles an hour," says Vicky Brown, mother of Darius Brown. "It’s crazy. We were coming home from the movies. It was really that simple for us."

To fix the loophole in Noah's Law, bills in Maryland's House and Senate would require drunk drivers arrested for a first offense and sentenced to probation to use an ignition interlock for 180 days.

Both police and state lawmakers behind this bill say it will close the loophole, but more importantly, it will save lives.

"Even if it prevents one death, one person from standing on that stage, it’s worth every cent," says Montgomery County Police Assistant Chief Darren Francke.

The Leotta family says before the pandemic, they personally went to 328 drunk driving hearings in Montgomery County, and of those, 217 "probation before judgments" were issued to people who plead guilty to drunk driving charges.

Maryland's House received the bill on Wednesday. The Senate expects to hold a hearing in the coming weeks.