BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- The tragic death of Montgomery County police officer Noah Leotta has fueled a crusade for harsher penalties for drunk drivers. Soon, state lawmakers will have to decide if Noah's Law will become a reality.
Amy Yensi has more on why supporters of the bill are fired up.
Those pushing for Noah's Law say they don't want it to be watered down. They say harsh penalties for drunk drivers will help avoid another tragedy.
When Montgomery County Officer Noah Leotta reported to work last December to keep drunk drivers off the road, no one could imagine he himself would be struck and killed by a drunk driver.
A report released this week shows the suspect, Luis Reluzco, had been drinking for hours the night of the crash.
"He's dead because he was executed by a drunk driver," said Noah's father, Rich Leotta.
His tragic death is inspiring his family and legislators to champion a state law in his name. Noah's Law puts ignition interlock systems on the cars of first-time offenders. That means you have to breathe into a tube and if alcohol is detected, your car won't start.
There are two versions of the interlock bill. The Senate bill has tougher penalties for drunk drivers.
Supporters of Noah's Law are urging a joint Senate/House committee to reach common ground by voting for the stronger law before the legislative session ends next week.
"This is the one bill that we can say for a fact will not save lives but the stronger it is, the more lives that will be saved," said Del. Ben Kramer, who sponsored the bill in the House.
Mothers Against Drunk Drivers say there are more than 140 drunk driving deaths each year in the state. Passing Noah's Law could reduce those deaths anywhere from 20-40%.
"For those people that can't seem to get it right, that's what this bill is for. It's to save their lives and everybody else's lives on the road," Leotta said.
"We had 50 police officers that were struck by drunk drivers alone last year," said Montgomery County Police Captain Thomas Didone.
Governor Larry Hogan also wants the tougher Senate version and has already said he would sign it.
The suspect has had prior DUIs. He remains behind bars and is due back in court next week.
for more features.