DUI Offenders in Maryland Must Install Breathalyzer Devices

Maryland drivers convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol must now use in-vehicle breathalyzers before operating a motor vehicle.

Effective Oct. 1, the Drunk Driving Reduction Act of 2016 requires people in Maryland convicted of drinking and driving to participate in the state’s Ignition Interlock Program.

“Drunk driving kills, and ignition interlock is a key tool to end drinking and driving,” Maryland Transportation Secretary Pete K. Rahn said in a press release.

The ignition interlock device gauges the driver’s blood alcohol content. If the BAC is above 0.025, the vehicle will not start.

The device also requires motorists to retest their BAC at random points during their trip. Drivers have 10 minutes to blow into the instrument for the vehicle to continue running. If the driver refuses or fails the test, the vehicle horn will honk and the headlights may flash.

People who fail the tests, miss monthly reviews, or damage or manipulate the machine face parole or probation violations.

Drivers must participate in the program if they meet any of the following convictions:

  • DUI
  • Driving while impaired (DWI) while transporting a person under the age of 16
  • Driving while intoxicated with an initial breathalyzer test refusal
  • DUI or DWI that resulted in a homicide or life-threatening injury

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan approved the legislation on May 19. It is nicknamed “Noah’s Law” in honor of Montgomery County police officer Noah A. Leotta, who was struck by a drunk driver at a field sobriety checkpoint in December 2015.

Leotta died of his injuries three days later. He was 24.

The driver, Luis Reluzco, 47, of Olney, Maryland, had consumed beer and whiskey hours before the crash. Reluzco had a BAC of 0.22, nearly three times the legal limit. He pleaded guilty to vehicular manslaughter earlier this year.

License Suspension Periods

First-time DUI offenders in Maryland must participate in the Ignition Interlock Program for six months. For the second DUI, offenders must participate for one year. Those with three or more violations must remain in the program for three years.

The law also lengthens administrative driver’s license suspension periods.

First-time offenders with a BAC at 0.08 or above now face a license suspension of 180 days. Those who refuse a chemical test face a license suspension of 270 days.

Repeat offenders with a BAC from 0.08 to 0.14 face a license suspension of 180 days. Those with a BAC of 0.15 or above face a 270-day suspension. Refusing a chemical test warrants a two-year suspension.

Drunk Driving: A Problem in Maryland

Impaired driving is not uncommon in Maryland.

Over the past five years, an average of 7,884 impaired-driving crashes resulting in 4,026 injuries occurred in Maryland each year, according to the Maryland Department of Transportation’s Motor Vehicle Administration. During that time, impaired drivers represented about one-third of all traffic deaths statewide.

Drunk driving is particularly problematic among young drivers: 3.5 percent of Maryland drivers arrested for DUI in 2015 were aged 16 to 20, per the Maryland MVA. From 2011 to 2015, 11 percent of drivers killed between the ages of 16 and 20 were under the influence of alcohol.

Noah’s Law is designed to curb these trends and create a safer driving experience statewide.

“We never called it ‘Noah’s Bill.’ We always called it ‘Noah’s Law.’ We did because we knew it had to pass,” Maryland Sen. Jamie Raskin, a Democrat, said at a news conference. “In some sense, we owe you an apology because if we had managed to get this done before, it might have saved Noah’s life.”

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