ROCKVILLE – Maryland state delegates are planning to introduce legislation to increase penalties for drunken driving during the upcoming legislative session.
“I think it is an achievable goal to eliminate drunk driving fatalities in our state,” said state Sen. Jamie Raskin (D-20). “It should not be seen as ‘mission impossible.’”
As of Nov. 30, Montgomery County police charged 2,888 people for driving under the influence, said County Police Capt. Thomas Didone.
In 2014, County police charged 3,189 motorists with driving under the influence and 3,302 motorists in 2013, Didone said.
He said the department makes the second most DUI arrests behind the state police.
The first DUI offense carries up to a year in jail, up to $1,000 fine, 12 points on the license and a minimum six month license suspension. A second offense carries up to two years in jail with a mandatory five days, up to $2,000 fine, 12 points on the license, a license suspension up to one year and an ignition interlock device installed.
People must participate in a mandatory alcohol abuse assessment and program, as well.
Raskin said taking away a driver’s license can be ineffective as people will drive without one.
“We are looking for a way to make drunk driving a thing of the past,” Raskin said.
Raskin said he and state Del. Ben Kramer (D-19) plan to introduce legislation to force all first-time DUI offenders to participate in the Ignition Interlock Program.
Current law mandates first time DUI offenders with a .14 or higher BAC or those convicted of more than one DUI participate in the program.
In Fiscal Year 2015, 11,200 people in the state participated in the Ignition Interlock Program, said Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration spokesperson Buel Young. That number was down from 11,290 people in FY 2014 but up from the 10,974 people enrolled in the program in FY 2013, according to Young.
“We want to expand the Ignition Interlock Program to all drunk drivers, not just repeat and extreme
drunk drivers,” said Raskin.
Under the Ignition Interlock Program, if a person’s blood alcohol concentration is higher than the legal limit when the person blows into a device tied to an engine’s ignition, the car does not start.
“I think that we do need to increase the penalties for drunk driving on the penalties side,” Raskin said. “I
am passionately committed to prevention.”
State Del. Shane Robinson (D-39) said he plans to co-sponsor several pieces of legislation geared
toward stricter penalties for drunken driving convictions, including expansion of the Ignition Interlock Program, saying he hopes stricter penalties will decrease drunken driving.
He described expanding the program as “common sense.”
Robinson said the “irony of the situation” is while the state is trying to decrease drunken driven accidents, opponents of the County’s liquor distribution monopoly are trying to expand distribution access for spirits and wine.
“I think we need to think about that,” said Robinson.
Raskin said he is also introducing a bill this upcoming session which would allow families to sue the drunk driver for punitive damages and compensation such as medical and funeral costs for those who lost a family member to a drunken driver.
State Del. David Fraser-Hidalgo (D-15) said he is working on drafting legislation aiming to increase penalties for parents who serve alcohol to minors. He said the fine would increase from $2,500 to $5,000 and carry jail time from six months to a year.
The legislation is influenced by an accident that left two Potomac teens dead, he said.
He said he is planning to introduce the bill during this legislative session.
Robinson said he is planning to co-sponsor this bill.
State Sen. Cheryl Kagan (D-17) said she is working on legislation that would allow officers to test motorists for cocaine, methamphetamines, prescription drugs and levels of marijuana.
“We’re in conversation with stakeholders and hope to introduce legislation next year,” Kagan said.