Special license tags for DUI offenders die in Virginia, Washington

| 3/31/2008

A bill in the Virginia House that is dead for the year would have required some motorists convicted of driving under the influence in the state to wear a “scarlet letter” of sorts. Similar legislation in Washington’s statehouse met the same fate.

In Virginia, Delegate Lionell Spruill Sr., D-Chesapeake, introduced a bill that would have required people with three or more DUI convictions to attach bright yellow license plates with red letters and numbers to their vehicles.

Once offenders regained their driver’s licenses they would have had to pay $500 for the special plates. The plates would have been required to stay on their vehicles for five years.

The House Courts of Justice Committee opted against advancing the bill – HB1281 – for further consideration. The decision effectively killed the bill for the year.

Opponents said the proposed rule would lead to unfair scrutiny and labeling of individuals. Some supporters said it is needed to help the public to know that the driver could be dangerous. Others said the distinctive plates would alert law enforcement.

According to The Virginian-Pilot, about 955 drivers in Virginia got a third DUI conviction in 2006.

Similar provisions are in place in other states.

Iowa, Georgia and Minnesota use a special combination of numbers or letters to identify motorists convicted of driving while intoxicated, while Ohio makes yellow plates with red numbers mandatory, The Associated Press reported.

In addition, Michigan uses paper tags to identify repeat offenders, while Oregon and Washington put a zebra sticker over the plate of habitual offenders.

A bill offered for consideration this year in Washington called for highlighting more drunken driving offenses. Sponsored by Sen. Mike Carrell, R-Lakewood, the measure sought to require people convicted of drunken driving to place florescent yellow license plates on their personal vehicles for one year – once their driving privileges have been restored.

DUI offenders would have been charged $10 per plate.

The bill – SB6402 – failed to advance from the Senate Transportation Committee at the deadline to move to the Senate floor.

To view other legislative activities of interest in Virginia, click here. For Washington legislation, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor