Florida bill would label drunken drivers, sexual offenders

| 5/3/2006

A pair of bills in the Florida House of Representatives would put special marks on certain driver’s licenses and license plates.

Drunken drivers would be easier to spot under a measure awaiting consideration on the House floor. Sponsored by Rep. Fred Brummer, R-Apopka, the bill would require bright orange-pink colored license plates with the letters “DUI” to be used on vehicles driven by people with restricted driving privileges because of convictions for driving under the influence.

A provision was dropped from the bill – HB627 – that would have permitted police to make random stops on vehicles displaying the special license plates. The bill would require the orange plates to be placed on any vehicles DUI offenders drive, regardless who owns them. The plates would cost $20 a year, in addition to regular license fees.

Opponents say the requirement would lead to unfair scrutiny and labeling of individuals. Supporters say it is needed to help the public to know that the driver could be dangerous.

Similar provisions are in place in other states. 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.

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

Other states have debated similar rules this year, including California, Louisiana and Maryland.

Another effort in the Florida House getting attention would put a special mark on driver licenses for sexual offenders and predators.

Sponsored by Rep. Charles Dean, R-Inverness, the bill would require sexual offenders and predators to obtain licenses or identification cards that display their conviction number. Individuals with prior convictions also would be required to have the special mark, the St. Petersburg Times reported.

Supporters say the measure would help schools identity what kind of visitors are trying to enter their campuses. Opponents say it would unfairly bring shame on people.

The bill – HB7117 – is in the House Justice Council. If approved, it would head to the House floor.

The Oklahoma House has overwhelmingly approved a similar measure that would identify registered sex offenders on their state driver’s licenses.

Sponsored by Sen. Brian Cain, R-Tulsa, the bill would require convicted sex offenders to obtain a new license stating their status as a sex offender. For those who fail to comply could have their license canceled for one year and be fined up to $200.

The bill – SB1426 – has been sent back to the Senate for final approval before heading to Gov. Brad Henry’s desk.