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Md. Laws Target Drunk Drivers, Ban Behind-Wheel Texting

Vallario, a defense lawyer, said the state's current law was sufficient.

"If you take the test and blow a 1.5 [blood-alcohol level] and you want an interlock, you can get it," he said.

Vallario said mandating their use could cause problems for people convicted of drunken driving who "don't have a car because we can't compel them to buy a car and put one of these in it."

The laws taking effect Thursday include one that says judges cannot offer probation before judgment to the same person twice in a 10-year span. A "PBJ," as it's known, allows someone to avoid a conviction -- and the driver's license points that can lead to higher insurance rates -- if other probation requirements are met.

Cochran dismissed that as "inconsequential."

"No judge would give you a second PBJ within 10 years," he said. "Effectively, the new law is what they've been doing anyway."

Other new laws increase fines to as much as $500, allow for up to two months in jail and mandate a one-year loss of license for two convictions within five years. The final law bans consumption of alcohol by those younger than 21 and makes it a crime to provide it to underage drinkers. That law was so thoroughly amended, including removal of a provision that would have cost underage drinkers their driver's licenses, that MADD asked the governor to veto it.

A ban on text-messaging while driving also takes effect Thursday in Maryland, as do changes in requirements for teenagers seeking a license. Teenagers must spend nine months driving with a learner's permit, instead of six, before becoming eligible for a provisional license.

The minimum age for receiving a full license becomes 18, and cellphone use while driving is banned until drivers reach that age. Parents also are able to have a teenager's learner's permit or provisional license revoked.


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