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The Loophole Lost but MADD Marches On

The Loophole Lost but MADD Marches On

By R. M. Carkhuff

This article contains descriptions of fatal DUI-related crashes and deaths. Reader discretion is advised.

After a heavy lobbying presence from MADD and advocates at Maryland’s 2023 General Assembly, the updates to Noah’s Law in were not passed this year. This means that if an offender who was driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is given probation before judgment they are not obligated to install the ignition interlock device, because probation before judgment is given to an offender that is found guilty but, not given the judgment of conviction. 

This is a devastating blow to anyone impacted by impaired driving, but the fight is not over for MADD and other impaired driving advocates in Maryland.

Noah’s Law is named after Officer Noah Leotta, who was working as a part of the Montgomery County Police Department’s Holiday Alcohol Task Force. On December 3, 2015, Noah was making a traffic stop on Rockville Pike. In the blink of an eye, Noah was struck by a man driving under the influence of alcohol while standing outside his cruiser. Despite being rushed to the hospital and receiving care, Noah passed away one week later on December 10, 2015, from the injuries inflicted upon him. 

Following Noah’s death, the Drunk Driving Reduction Act Of 2016, also known as Noah’s Law, was introduced. Noah’s Law requires a person convicted of alcohol-related driving offenses to have an ignition interlock system installed in their vehicle.

This means that all drivers convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol will have to blow into ignition interlock devices to prove they haven’t been drinking too much before their cars will start. Ignition interlock devices will have to be installed for six months in the vehicle of anyone who blows over the legal limit of .08 in a breath test, or else the person’s license will be suspended for six months.

However, if an offender is given probation before judgment, then they are not obligated to install the ignition interlock device. 

That’s why MADD advocates in Maryland lobbied to close the loophole in the law. Last month, delegates from MADD Mid-Atlantic’s leadership team, including Regional Executive Director Roderick Howard, and Advisory Board Member Vickie Brown, were in Annapolis, Maryland to fight for an update in the law that will close the loophole. 

Vickie Brown, whose family was hit by a drunk driver, lost her son Darius Jovon Brown in their 2004 crash. The driver bisected the Brown’s car when he hit them going 125 mph and their car flipped several times before landing upright. Brown shared her story during General Assembly in February 2023 as a portrait of why the loophole should be closed.

“Knowing that [Noah] was doing something that I’ve been fighting for, for so long, and he lost his life doing that…I am honored that he was doing [this work] for us, and it breaks my core that he lost his life doing this for us. Being able to close this loophole means no other mother, sibling, father, or friend will have to experience the life we’re living,” said Brown in an interview with MADD Mid-Atlantic. 

Advocates and MADD staff alike will continue to lobby for the closure of the loophole. 2023 may have not panned out, but 2024 is not far off. 

This article is in loving memory of Office Noah Leotta and Darius Jovon Brown. 

           Officer Noah Leotta                                Darius Jovon Brown