October 1, 2016 marked the commencement of Maryland’s new set of guidelines for those convicted of DUI. These new provisions were set down by Senate Bill 945, dubbed Noah’s Law, which was signed into law by Governor Larry Hogan in memory of Montgomery County Police Officer Noah Leotta. Office Leotta was struck and killed by a drunk driver while performing a traffic stop in December of 2015. The bill is aimed at preventing such tragedies from occurring by enacting harsher punishments for those who are arrested for driving while intoxicated, even on the first offense.
However, not one to sit idle on victories, Governor Hogan has proven that Noah’s Law was only a salvo in ongoing campaign to crack down on repeat offenders of numerous crimes. He announced a new initiative on the 12th, which has been christened the Justice for Victims Initiative. This new initiative is a sweeping set of proposed measures acts. These acts seek to prevent repeat sexual predators, protect victims of human trafficking and make it easier to prosecute the traffickers, help protect victims of crime, and provide more severe penalties for repeat DUI offenders.
“Making Maryland safer begins with making sure that we have a criminal justice system that holds offenders accountable for their actions and the harm they cause, while also supporting victims and the community in the process of healing,” announced Governor Hogan. “The Justice for Victims Initiative we are announcing today is bipartisan, common sense legislation that will help protect the most vulnerable among us, improve services for the victims of crimes, and help us reduce and prevent the number of future victims of crime.”
One of the acts set forth in his proposition is the 2017 Repeat Drunk Driving Offenders Act, which would increase the weight of a third DUI offense to a felony. Additionally, it would increase the weight of any DUI crash that results in death or dire injury to a felony for any driver that has been convicted with a prior DUI.
The measures laid out in the planned Act are fairly common-sense, as repeat DUI incidents that occur within a short period of time are suggestive of alcohol dependency. This is especially true considering Maryland’s relatively short lookback period for DUI offenses. Maryland, along with a few other states, including Alabama, Arkansas and Florida, still boasts the minimum five-year duration for DUI offenses to count toward subsequent convictions that was set down by the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century, Sec. 2004, SS 410 (1998-2003). The TEA Act requires at least a five-year lookback period for any state to remain eligible for certain federal highway funds.