November 23rd, 2016
Some new drunk driving laws went into effect in Maryland on Saturday. All motorists should understand some critical details about these news laws and the effects that they will have on Maryland’s drivers.
The Drunk Driving Reduction Act of 2016
A particularly impactful Maryland law concerning drivers who are under the influence went into effect on October 1, 2016. The Drunk Driving Reduction Act of 2016, also known as Noah’s Law, requires an individual convicted of certain alcohol-related driving offenses to participate in an Ignition Interlock System Program. These offenses include driving under the influence; driving while impaired while transporting a minor who is under the age of 16; driving while under the influence with refusal to take an initial breathalyzer test; and driving under the influence which causes a death or life-threatening injury.
Noah’s Law also lowers the blood alcohol level at which ignition interlocks are permitted and encouraged to be installed from .15 to .08. Individuals who are under the age of 21 who operate motor vehicles while under the influence of alcohol can face charges if their blood alcohol content is above .02. Drivers of commercial vehicles can face charges if their blood alcohol content is above .04.
This program will require convicted individuals to blow into an ignition device every time they start their motor vehicles. Noah’s Law requires that ignition interlock devices be installed for even first-time offenders. Ignition interlock devices are breathalyzer-like devices that prevent a vehicle from starting if alcohol is detected on the driver’s breath. Ignition interlock devices also require motor vehicle drivers to submit to additional breath tests throughout a trip. Each interlock device bears the likeness of Montgomery County Police Officer Noah Leotta, who died in a fatal collision in 2015 involving a drunk driver while working on a DUI task force.
Noah’s Law will require that individuals who do not permit a vehicle interlock to be installed undergo a nine-month license suspension. Lawmakers hope that the law reduces the rate of drivers operating motor vehicles while under the influence of alcohol throughout the state of Maryland. Many individuals in Maryland have expressed the opinion that this law is a significant step forward in prosecuting drunk driving cases and believe that this restriction will generate a significant reduction in fatalities in drunk driving accidents. Other individuals anticipate that Noah’s law will inspire Maryland to join the other 27 US states with current extremely restrictive ignition interlock laws.
Alex and Calvin’s Law
Some laws in the state of Maryland are designed to penalize individuals who provide alcohol to others who then get behind the wheel while intoxicated and cause injuries. A recent Maryland law called Alex and Calvin’s Law is named after two high school graduates who were killed by a drunk driver after leaving an underage drinking party in 2015. Alex and Calvin’s Law is specifically geared towards adults who allow underage children to drink at their houses.
This law adds potential jail time of up to one year for adults who host parties where minors are drinking. Those adults can also face fines up to $5,000. Some commentators have argued that Alex and Calvin’s law is only a partial solution in that it only punishes individuals who provide alcohol to those who then cause injuries while driving under the influence of alcohol. It does not address those people who give alcohol to minors who do not then go on to drive or injure others. This type of behavior is still illegal, but results in less severe charges. The language regarding moments when an individual “knows or should have known” that a minor would eventually drive while under the influence of alcohol is also particularly limiting in nature.
A DUI conviction will lead to consequences beyond the installation of an ignition interlock device. A defendant can receive up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine for driving under the influence, up to two months in jail and a $500 fine for driving while intoxicated, and up to six months license suspension for driving under the influence or driving while intoxicated.