Provisions include Limiting “Get Out of Jail Free Card,” Automatic License Suspension
More than one-fourth of the traffic fatalities that robbed Maryland’s families of their mothers, fathers and children last year were committed by drivers under the influence of drugs and alcohol. The state’s 152 alcohol-related traffic fatalities in 2008 represented 26 percent of the 592 total number of traffic deaths. In the continuing crusade to end these devastating tragedies, the Maryland General Assembly, legislative leaders, safety advocates and concerned citizens joined together to bolster the fight against impaired driving with four new DUI laws that become effective October 1.
“The O’Malley Administration is committed to closing the legal loopholes through which drunk drivers too often escape. Our message today is this: Drunk driving is preventable and if you choose to break the law and take lives in your hands, we are providing the necessary tools to our law enforcement officers and judges to ensure that you cannot and will not do it again,” Lt. Governor Brown said. “Governor O’Malley and I are getting tough on impaired driving. Earlier this year, we passed four bills that improve and tighten Maryland’s impaired driving laws.”
Four bills were passed during the 2009 legislative session that tighten Maryland’s impaired driving laws:
A bill that mandates of one-year driver’s license suspensions for persons convicted twice of Maryland’s impaired driving statutes;
A bill outlawing the “consumption” of alcohol by those under 21 (law enforcement officials now will be able to charge offenders with consumption if they can prove the youth had possession of the alcohol and is proven to be under the influence) and criminalizes the furnishing of alcohol to minors;
A bill that prohibits a DUI offender from receiving a Probation Before Judgment (PBJ) more than once in a 10 year period; and
A provision for fines and incarceration for persons violating a Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) imposed driver’s license alcohol restriction.
“For years I have worked to strengthen our drunken driving laws,” said State Senator Jennie Forehand. “In fact one law that I have particularly sought to get on the books for years is that of increasing the look back period on an offender's driving record - the purpose of this is to make certain that a repeat offender is not given the opportunity to walk away from a subsequent drunk driving charge with a probation before judgment finding. Persistence pays and thanks to the leadership of the Task Force, Maryland now has a 10 year look back period for all DUI offenses.”
“Despite the massive education and enforcement efforts underway to prevent impaired driving, Marylanders are still drinking and getting behind the wheel,” said Chief of Natural Resources Police and President of the Maryland Chiefs of Police George Johnson, IV. “Maryland law enforcement officers arrest 24,000 people annually for impaired driving. A large percentage of these lawbreakers are repeat offenders. Additionally, we’ve seen an increase of impaired driving by young, inexperienced drivers, who should not have access to alcohol in the first place.”
Members of the Task Force to Combat Driving Under the Influence of Drugs and Alcohol, which was formed during the 2007 General Assembly, were on hand for the Lt. Governor’s announcement.
After 18 months of in-depth review of Maryland’s impaired driving system, including expert testimony and intense evaluation of the laws, judicial system, enforcement, intervention and treatment programs, the Task Force submitted a report with 42 recommendations to help strengthen impaired driving prevention. This report has been touted as one of the best comprehensive reports and set of recommendations in Maryland’s history. The Task Force based its recommendations on sound research and best practices from around the nation and other countries, which were substantiated by facts and examples of successful implementation.
According to a AAA Mid-Atlantic poll, most Marylanders support these firm measures to address the problem. Approximately two-thirds of Marylanders felt strongly that closing legal loopholes to ensure jail terms for drunk drivers would help to combat drunk driving. In addition, MWR Strategies, a respected research firm that has conducted Checkpoint Strikeforce campaign surveys since 2002, surveyed 800 adults in Maryland, the District of Columbia and Virginia in July 2009. Among the campaign’s target audience of males aged 21-35, key findings included that nearly three-quarters (72-percent) of these local drivers perceive drunk driving as one of the most serious dangers faced on area roadways.
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