October 1 was the day Noah’s Law went into effect in Maryland mandating ignition interlocks for those convicted of drunk driving and increasing administrative driver’s license suspension periods for offenders.
At a Friday morning press conference in the Circuit Court of Montgomery County, a stamp with a photo of Officer Noah Leotta, which will be affixed to every device in Maryland, was unveiled by his parents and local officials.
Officer Noah Leotta was killed by a drunk driver while on DUI patrol in Rockville last December. His tragedy led to the long-sought passage of legislation to require ignition interlocks for all drunk driving offenders. The sticker will serve as lasting tribute to Officer Leotta and a poignant reminder that as his father, Rich Leotta, says, “Noah is still on patrol.”
“With the enactment of this law, we will have one of the strongest ignition interlock programs in the nation,” said Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett, “It’s very fitting that a picture of Noah is being added to the ignition interlock devices. Police are the guardians of our welfare and Noah will always be remembered as one of our finest.”
Whenever people drink alcoholic beverages, Leggett encouraged them to make a plan and get home safely.
Before the unveiling, Montgomery County Sheriff Darren Popkin also encouraged people to make alternative transportation arrangements if they are going out and consuming alcohol.
Popkin recalled sitting in hearings for years thinking a drunk driving reduction act would go through. During the hearings, hundreds of officers testified. A number of officers spoke about being hit by drunk drivers while out on other traffic stops. Even so, Popkin believes that it wasn’t until the Leotta family advocated for the law that it finally happened.
“It is estimated that 50 to 100 lives per year could be saved with this law being on the books,” explained Popkin.
Maryland Motor Vehicle Administrator Christine Nizer also echoed the message to the Leotta family that, “This wouldn’t have happened without you.” She thanked law enforcement for putting their lives on the line to protect us.
Referring to the ignition interlock device as one of the solutions for a complex problem, Nizer said, “It is a device that truly saves lives.” Last year, 4,000 trips were stopped by the device when offenders with blood alcohol content of .08 or higher attempted to drive.
John McCarthy, Montgomery County State’s Attorney, heralded the law for also broadening the categories of individuals mandatorily required to have an interlock and expanding the period of license suspension.
McCarthy told the story of a woman who was given parole for vehicular manslaughter and had to have an ignition interlock on her car. After already killing someone, she still tried to start her car when drunk, a pending parole violation.
“If somebody has already killed and taken a life doesn’t get the message, that’s why this bill is so important,” said McCarthy, “Even people who have had that experience, still cannot, in some instances, prevent themselves from getting behind the wheel and attempting to drive a car in this state.”
As McCarthy recognized the fact that Noah’s image was on the stamp, he reflected on its appropriateness because “It took Noah’s death to get the energy behind this bill.”
After unveiling the stamp with his wife, Marcia Goldman, Rich Leotta spoke, “We carried it across the finish line, but this has been battled for seven years. Seven years, so many victims. So many families. So many hearts broken and that’s what we’re trying to prevent.”
“They did the right thing. They finally got it. They unanimously passed Noah’s Law,” said Leotta about lawmakers in Annapolis, “So now we’re passing this along. We’re passing the baton to another part of the system. We’re passing it on to our men and women in blue. We’re passing it on to the prosecutors, the judges and everybody else who’s involved in our legislative and judicial system of justice. What we need is for the law to be implemented and enforced effectively and efficiently. Because if we do that. We will make a difference. We are going to save lives.”
“We don’t want anybody else to have to suffer as we do. We don’t want that,” said Leotta.
Acknowledging that saving lives is ultimately in the hands of the driver, Leotta uttered the words, “Think and plan ahead. It’s not so hard. Just don’t drink and drive.”
Cynthia Cotte Griffiths is the editor of RockvilleView.
Top: The stamp with Noah’s Law and a photo of Montgomery County Police Officer Noah Leotta. The stamp will be affixed to each Ignition Interlock device in the State of Maryland.
Next: An Ignition Interlock device which will not permit convicted drunk drivers from turning on the ignition of a vehicle with alcohol on their breath. The device has the “Noah’s Law” stamp.
Next: Montgomery County State’s Attorney John McCarthy
Next: Noah Leotta’s parents Rich Leotta and Marcia Goldman as the stamp was revealed.
Photos courtesy RockvilleView.