Noah’s Law: Ignition Interlock Penalties for DUI and DWI

Noah’s Law, or the Drunk Driving Reduction Act of 2016, went into effect in Maryland on October 1, 2016. The law, named after Montgomery County Police Officer Noah Leotta who was hit by a drunk driver while conducting a traffic stop in December 2015, requires those who refuse to take the breath test or who take the breath test with a reading above .08 to have installed in their vehicles an ignition interlock device for a set period of time regardless of whether one is convicted in court. The law also requires ignition interlock devices for certain DUI and DWI convictions separate from a motor vehicle administration (MVA) suspension requiring the interlock. These ignition interlock penalties are in addition to any sentence that may be imposed by a court.

An ignition interlock device is a device that connects to a vehicle’s ignition system. The vehicle operator must blow into the device, which measures the blood alcohol content (BAC) in the breath, before the vehicle will start. When the device detects a BAC of .025 or higher the vehicle will not start. The interlock device also requires one to blow at random times while the vehicle is in motion as a check to see if the driver is intoxicated. Any violation of the interlock rules can result in additional time added to the interlock period or a hard suspension of one’s license.

The ignition interlock program is monitored by the MVA ignition interlock program. The penalties can be somewhat confusing to understand and one must understand that there is a difference between interlock penalties a court must impose upon conviction and the MVA’s immediate and automatic interlock suspension periods.

If one is convicted by a court for a first time DUI, DWI with a minor under 16 in the vehicle, or a homicide or life-threatening injury while DUI or DWI, a mandatory 180 ignition interlock requirement will be imposed. A second conviction will result in a one-year interlock requirement. Third and subsequent offenses will result in 3-year interlock requirements. Again, these are in addition to the sentence a court will impose.

The MVA will suspend licenses administratively for certain BAC results and refusals to take a breath test. For a first offense with a breath test of any resulting BAC, the suspension is 180 days. A refusal will result in 270 day suspension, but if one is later convicted of a DWI with a refusal, the suspension period will be 1 year. If one’s BAC is between .08 and .14 on a second offense, the suspension period is 180 days. For a BAC of .15 or above on a second or more offense, the suspension period is 270 days. For a second-time or more test refusal, the suspension period is 2 years. One can opt to immediately enter into the ignition interlock program and these suspensions will be modified by the MVA to allow one to drive with the interlock installed without the need to request an administrative hearing.

Studies have shown that interlock devices reduce drunk driving by as much as 70% – especially with repeat offenders. The device is easy to install by a licensed installer, relatively inexpensive, and allows one who would otherwise be suspended from driving the opportunity to drive on an interlock-restricted license. There are several other details related to Noah’s Law and other DUI/DWI-related license restrictions that may be unique to one’s particular situation. So, it’s best to discuss each situation with an attorney soon after being charged with either a DUI or DWI.

Steven W. Rakow, Esquire, a former assistant state’s attorney and retired Marine officer, practices civil litigation, construction law, criminal law, and general practice matters. He can be reached at 410-600-3075, by email at steve@steverakowlaw.com, or through his website www.steverakowlaw.com.

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