Md. Troopers Push for Tougher Laws for Repeat Drunken Drivers

WASHINGTON — Maryland law enforcement officers who spend their days — and nights — pulling drunken drivers off the roads are growing frustrated with the number of repeat offenders.

“When is enough, enough?” said Montgomery County Police Capitain Tom Didone during a House Judiciary Committee in Annapolis this week.

Didone testified on House bill 371, which would make repeat drunken driving a felony in Maryland.

The law would kick in if a driver has been found to have three prior drunken driving convictions or a conviction in a crash that caused death or life-threatening injuries. Forty-six states have felony drunken driving laws. Maryland and D.C. do not.

During Wednesday’s hearing, Maryland State Police Sgt. David Ryan told lawmakers he’d seen five cases where drunken drivers hit cruisers. In one case, he told the house panel, the trooper was hurt.

“That trooper was me,” he said.

Ryan said he was sitting in his cruiser behind another car when another car approached. Looking into his rearview mirror, he said he recalls thinking the car was getting very close very rapidly. “And it slammed right in the back of my cruiser,” he said.

Last year, Maryland lawmakers passed “Noah’s Law,” named for Montgomery County Police Officer Noah Leotta who died after being hit by a drunken driver on Interstate 270 in December 2015. At the time, Leotta was working on a task force targeting drunken drivers. The law requires that an ignition interlock device be installed in the car of anyone convicted of drunken driving.

Under the proposed law, a driver found guilty of repeat drunken driving could face up to 10 years in prison, a fine of up to $10,000 or both.

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