“Scarlet Letter” License Plates
As more states are cracking down on drinking and driving, some policy makers are moving to incite special license plates for those who have been convicted of Driving Under the Influence (DUI) or similar offenses. States like Minnesota and Ohio have already adopted policies like this, assigning special license plates to those how have been found guilty of DUI. Legally, this is known as “license plate impoundment,” but individuals are also referring to it as “restricted license plates,” “party plates,” “whiskey plates,” or “scarlet letter plates.”
Advocates of this legislation say these special license plates help drivers and law enforcement be more aware of high risk drivers on the road. Those who are against the use of these plates say license plate impoundment does nothing more than embarrass offenders and brand them as dangerous, regardless of the circumstances of their conviction. Additionally, opponents of the bill say using these plates on business vehicles only causes harm to businesses’ reputations.
The state of Ohio was the first in the United States to require these types of special license plates, using legislation that was enacted in 1994. Restricted license plates had been used in Ohio since 1967 and feature bright red and yellow numbers. These plates are required to be used by individuals with DUI convictions that indicated by a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) of 0.17 percent or more as well as those who have been convicted of a second or subsequent DUI offense.
The state of Minnesota uses these plates as well – restricted plates in this state are white with either blue or black text and are required for drivers who have had two or more DUI convictions within a ten- year period. The numbering on license plates in the state of Minnesota begins with the letter ‘W,’ which is why many people refer to them as “whiskey plates.” Some of the other states in the country that require license plate impoundment include the states of Georgia, Iowa, and Oregon.
Individuals who are required to use these special license plates have to turn their current license plates over to the Department or Bureau of Motor Vehicles within their state, at which time they are given their restricted plates. These plates are required to be on the offender’s vehicle for the duration of his or her driver’s license suspension regardless of if this suspension was ordered by the court or was considered an administrative suspension.