Officer's death may save lives, keep drunk drivers off roads

There is new momentum for "Noah's Law" after the death of a police officer.

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WUSA9) -- The death of Montgomery County Police Officer Noah Leotta could help save scores of lives.

Lawmaker are lining up behind a bill to require all convicted drunk drivers to install ignition interlock devices in their vehicles for at least six months.

Similar bills have stalled in the legislature for years. The new legislation is named in honor of Leotta, who was killed by a suspected drunk driver.

PREVIOUS: Funeral held for fallen Montgomery Co. officer Noah Leotta

The locks hook into your ignition system. If blow into them and you've been drinking, you cannot start your car.

For six years, Maryland House Judiciary Chair Joseph Vallario has blocked bills to toughen up the state's ignition interlock law. But the Prince George's County delegate is now under serious pressure to change his mind.

"Will you give that bill a hearing?" WUSA9's Bruce Leshan asked Vallario.

"We'll definitely have a hearing. And then after the hearing we'll talk," he responded.

"Will you allow a vote?," Leshan asked.  

"We'll talk about that after the hearing," Vallario said. 

Maryland's current law requires interlocks only for first time offenders who blow more than .15, nearly twice the legal limit for driving drunk. The new law introduced for the new legislative session would require interlocks for anyone convicted of driving with blood alcohol over .08

"This is the one piece of legislation that we can say for a fact will save lives," said bill sponsor, Del. Ben Kramer (D-Montgomery County).

"You can drive wherever you want to go. But you cannot do it drunk," said Md. Sen. Jamie Raskin (D-Montgomery County), who is introducing an identical bill in the state senate.

Chairman Vallario not only controls laws on drunk driving, he works as a defense attorney representing drunk drivers, including the drunk driver suspected in the death of the immensely popular Morgan State University student Adedire Ososanya.

"In the Maryland House of Delegates, that's not a conflict, that's expertise. Makes you want to take a shower," said Chuck Hurley, former national CEO of Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

The drivers suspected of killing Ososanya and Leotta both remain under investigation -- and have yet to be charged.

"Under Maryland law, he's not charged at the current time," said Capt. Thomas Didone of the Montgomery County Police. "There are not sanctions on him." 

Similar ignition interlock bills disappeared without explanation into Chairman Vallario's desk drawer in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2015. But House Speaker Michael Bush told WUSA9 that he thinks this year will be different.

So there's a very real possibility that Officer Leotta's death could save hundreds of lives. A fitting tribute to an officer who dedicated his life to getting drunk drivers off the road.

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Mentor of fallen officer supports call for tougher DUI laws in Md.

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