Countians Travel To Annapolis To Testify On Legislation

Madd Backs Matthews' Drunken-driving Bill

February 26, 1992|By Adam Sachs | Adam Sachs,Staff writer

ANNAPOLIS — Mothers Against Drunk Driving spoke at a hearing Tuesday to support a Carroll delegate's bill aimed at toughening restrictions for previously convicted drunken drivers.

Del. Richard C. Matthews, R-Carroll, is hoping a few key adjustments to two drunken-driving measures will help their passage in the House Judiciary Committee, which has rejected both bills for the last three years.

The testimony of MADD's Maryland chapter could help the bill, which would require courts to place an alcohol restriction on the license of any driver convicted of a second or subsequent alcohol-related driving offense, said Matthews. The restriction, which also would be ordered if a previously convicted driver refuses a breath test, would prohibit the individual from driving with even a trace of alcohol in his or her blood.

The restriction is intended to alert police and could lead to revocation of the license. The Motor Vehicle Administration currently has the authority to place an alcohol restriction on licenses. But Matthews says the agency is not required to impose the restriction, and it often doesn't.

Brenda Barnes, state administrator for MADD, said the legislation is "good common sense."

"Expecting a repeat offender to drive a vehicle free of alcohol is not an onerous imposition," she said.

Matthews amended last year's bill to allow the restriction to expire after three years, provided the driverremains free of any other drunken-driving convictions.

Charles Kuszmaul, representing United Christian Citizens, also urged a tougher stance.

"I've seen two families wiped out because of (drunken driving)," said the Harford County resident.

Matthews' other bill would require courts to impose a $25 surcharge, in addition to regular penalties, on individuals convicted of drunken driving or granted probation before judgment.

This year's bill targets the money toward the state's operating budget rather than toward the purchase of modernized breath-testing equipment for the Maryland State Police, as it hadpreviously. Committee members don't like the concept of dedicating money for certain purposes, he said.

Matthews said he'd prefer thatthe money be used for the state's judicial system. He said the bill has a better chance of passing this year because the state is searching for ways to raise money.

"I always felt if a person hires a lawyer when he's charged with drunken driving at a minimum of $1,500 to $2,000, then $25 isn't too much to ask for occupying the courtroom," he said.

Barnes said MADD didn't support the bill because the group wanted the money earmarked for prevention programs.

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