Noah's Law restored, set for House vote next week

Maryland House expected to approve Noah's Law next week.

After being watered down by lawmakers, key provisions in Noah's Law -- which would require more drunk drivers to use ignition interlocks -- have been restored, the bill's sponsor said Friday.

"Now we have it in a posture where I can be proud to have my name associated with this bill," said Del. Benjamin F. Kramer, a Montgomery County Democrat who is the lead sponsor of the bill in the House of Delegates.

The revised bill received preliminary approval in the House on Friday, with a final vote set for next week.

Noah's Law is named for Noah Leotta, a Montgomery County police officer who was fatally injured by an alleged drunk driver while doing a traffic stop in December. The driver, Luis Gustavo Reluzco, 47, has been indicted for negligent auto manslaughter and not changing lanes when approaching an emergency vehicle. A trial is scheduled for May.

The bill would put ignition interlock systems in vehicles of first-time convicted drunk drivers with a blood-alcohol level as low as .08 percent. The systems prevent the vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking.

The House Judiciary Committee had made changes to the bill, including not requiring the interlocks for drivers who refuse to take a Breathalyzer test. Kramer said Friday's amendments increase the amount of time a driver's license would be suspended if they don't take the breath test from 120 days to 270 days -- or they can opt in to the ignition interlock program.

"The idea there is to take away the incentive to refuse [the breath test] and that's been the problem," Kramer said.

Advocates, including Leotta's parents, visited Annapolis on Thursday to urge lawmakers to pass a stronger version of the bill. The Leotta family and other victims of drunk driving testified before the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee. The committee chairman, Sen. Bobby Zirkin, indicated the committee was supportive of the bill.

"We've tried to pass this bill for a number of years ... It's a safe assumption we're going to be passing it again," Zirkin said Thursday.

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