Maryland: Top cop urges citizens to contact lily-livered legislators of Maryland to put teeth into DUI laws

Bipartisan Maryland DWI legislators

Montgomery County Police Chief Manger Urges Residents to Contact Elected Officials to Support Noah’s Law and Additional DUI Bills

Luis Gustavo Reluzco 3 time DUI offender killed Mont. Co. Md. Officer Noah Leotta

On the day that Montgomery County Officer Noah Leotta died, Chief Manger spoke to the media about Officer Leotta’s sacrifice. Chief Manger became impassioned when talking about the driver who was under the influence of alcohol when he killed Officer Leotta – the driver who had previously been arrested three times for driving under the influence (DUI) offenses.

The sitting Montgomery County Grand Jury indicted* Luis Gustavo Reluzco,a 47, of Rolling Meadow Way in Olney, for striking and killing Montgomery County Police Officer Noah Leotta (Lee-ah-ta).  Reluzco has been indicted on the following charges: manslaughter by automobile and failure to make a lane change or slow to a reasonable or prudent speed upon approach of an emergency vehicle on a highway (commonly referred to as the “Move Over Law” – Maryland Transportation Article 21-405).  Luis Gustavo Reluzco had a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) of .22 when he struck Officer Noah Leotta.

Montgomery County Police Chief Tom Manger speaks about Officer Noah’s death at the hands of a DUI driver. Photo courtesy of WUSA

At approximately 1:05 p.m. Feb. 11, 2016, Reluzco turned himself in at the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office; Reluzco was accompanied by his attorney.  Reluzco was transported to the Central Processing Unit.  Bond information is not available at this time.

(*N.B. An indictment is not a finding of guilt.  It is merely a formal charge until and if the defendant is found guilty in a future judicial proceeding.  All defendants are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law).

In honoring Noah’s sacrifice and in working to prevent impaired-driving tragedies in the future, Chief Manger is collaborating with various people and agencies to include the following:

  • Several legislators in Annapolis to strengthen the laws and penalties for drunk and impaired driving.  (Proposed bills are described below).
  • The Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s Office:
    • To ensure that prosecutors are in agreement that strong prosecutions are needed, especially for repeat DUI offenders.
    • On the development of a Court Watch program that involves volunteers who would observe court cases involving repeat DUI offenders and monitor judges’ sentencing decisions.
  • The Department of Corrections to ensure jail time is given to DUI offenders and that home detention is not an option.

Officer Noah Leotta died after being hit by DUI driver in Rockville Md 121015

The Chief is urging community members and state-wide law enforcement personnel to support his efforts to make changes to the laws that pertain to driving while impaired. Chief Manger stated, “I believe these changes are important and will make travel safer for everyone on Maryland roadways; these changes will save lives. I am asking that residents contact their delegates and senators and urge them to vote ‘YES’ on the following bills”:

Noah’s Law – Mandatory Interlock for all Persons Convicted of Driving While Under the Influence (DUI)

DWI checkpoint Rt 228 Waldorf 121615 dedicated to Montgomery Officer Noah Leotta

Delegate Kramer and Senator Raskin of Montgomery County have introduced legislation that will require interlock devices to be used by all drivers convicted of impaired driving. Presently under Maryland law, only persons who are convicted of DUI with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .15 or more (.08 the legal limit in Maryland) and repeat offenders are assigned interlocks by the Motor Vehicle Administration.

Enhanced Penalties for Offenses of Manslaughter by Motor Vehicle and Homicide by Motor Vehicle while DUI

DUI crash scene Rockville Md 120415 Officer Leotta critical. NBC 4 Washington photo

The Chief is also asking the legislature to increase the penalties for anyone convicted of driving while impaired that results in a death of another person. Currently, the maximum penalty that a person faces for causing the death of another while operating a motor vehicle is ten years in jail. In Maryland, the maximum penalty for homicide by motor vehicle while under the influence is 5 years and is one of the lowest penalties in the nation. This legislation is the top priority for Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and has been identified as important legislation by Advocates for Auto and Highway Safety.

Enhanced Penalties for Adults Who Host Underage Drinking Parties –Criminal Law – Providing Alcohol to Underage Drinkers

Delegate Fraser-Hildago has drafted legislation that adds a penalty of one-year maximum in jail and increases the already existing maximum fine amount from $2,500 to $5,000 for a first offense for providing alcohol to those who are underage. For a subsequent offense, the legislation would increase the existing maximum fine from $5,000 to $7,500 and add a penalty of a maximum of two years in jail.

Civil Action – Wrongful Selling or Furnishing Alcoholic Beverages (Dram Shop Laws)

Delegate Dumais has drafted legislation that would allow a victim’s family to seek civil action against an establishment and/or an individual who wrongfully sells or furnishes alcohol to a person. This law exists in several other states but does not exist in Maryland.

Additional Traffic-Related Laws Related to DUI that the Department Supports

Delegate Fraser-Hidalgo proposes enhancing the Negligent Driving law. Currently, a person who drives negligently and causes the death of another is issued a pre-payable traffic citation for negligent driving; the person never has to appear in court. This new legislation requires that a person who drives negligently and causes the death of another person to appear in court.