Question: Can you explain what Noah’s Law is and the impact it will have on Maryland DUI cases?
Answer: Noah’s law was new legislation that was enacted that basically hardens the punishment from the MVA side, certainly, probably the most, as a result of the increasing number of DUIs in the state of Maryland. This basically, the interlock legislation was tried to be pushed through several different times. It had always been shot down. This most recent time, there was a police officer named Noah Leotta out of Montgomery County who was killed by a multiple DUI offender. And essentially they teamed up with Noah’s family to give the bill a name, and as anybody knows, whenever you put a name on legislation it almost always goes through. This time it was successful.
What it did was, it pretty much forces anybody charged with a DUI to put the interlock in their car at some point. You can still, if you blow between a .05 to a .149, you can still opt for a work restriction license; however, instead of 45 days as it was prior to October first of 2016, it is now six months, which is really not economical for somebody that is a parent, or somebody who has several family members that they need to drive around—you can’t drive for any purpose other than work. So for six months, that is really, really hard. So, at this time, we’re actually recommending people, if they’ve been charged with DUI, to pretty much put the interlock in, unless they can survive with either six months of not having a license or driving for work purposes only. So it has minimized the amount of MVA hearings because it’s an easier recommendation now to just put the interlock in the car and comply.
What it does do, though, it does not really differentiate between someone who blows say a decent number—somewhere lower between a .08 and a .14, something like that—from anyone who blows a little bit higher than that or somebody who’s super high on the chain. So, whereas you used to not be punished as bad for sort of attempting to not drive while under the influence, you’re pretty much punished the same, outside of a little bit variance in time with someone who was very, very impaired or somebody who refused.
So, what it has done, at least for a DUI attorney, if I am asked now whether someone should refuse to take a breathalyzer or not, my answer would be on almost every occasion, unless the person is 100% sure that they are not going to blow a number that would be deemed incriminating, then I just recommend to refuse everything. Whereas I would have said if you truly feel OK, go ahead and take it. But at this point, the punishment is just very, very severe, so I think it does kind of muddy the waters as to what to do exactly.
It did go into effect on October first (2016), so any DUI charged where an advice of rights form was issued after the October first date, has the new, more severe punishment in it. So we’re just now starting to see the end of the old DR-15, the end of the old punishment coming through. So I imagine it will have an effect on how many MVA hearings that any kind of attorney who handles DUI has done, because it’s just kind of a bright line rule now that you’re going to end up having to put the interlock in the car. And that’s essentially what it is—it does make the punishments more severe, if you’re a multiple time offender it basically ratchets up the punishment. And I see what they’re attempting to do—they’re attempting to curb DUIs. I’m just not so sure that’s exactly what its effect will be.