Louisiana bill would label sexual offenders driver's licenses

| Wednesday, June 14, 2006

A bill moving through the Louisiana Legislature intends to help track sexual offenders. Meanwhile, a separate effort to identify those convicted of driving while intoxicated has undergone significant changes.

The House Transportation, Highways and Public Works Committee voted 10-0 June 6 to approve a bill that would require convicted sex offenders to carry driver’s licenses with the words “sex offender” stamped on them in orange type.

The bill, which the Senate already approved, is awaiting consideration on the House floor. If approved there, it would head to Gov. Kathleen Blanco’s desk for her signature.

Sponsored by Sen. Willie Mount, D-Lake Charles, the measure would require convicted offenders to carry the distinctive licenses or, for those who do not have driver’s licenses, personal identification cards with the words printed across them.

The bill – SB612 – also would require the Department of Public Safety to share its database of sex crimes violators with the Office of Motor Vehicles, the agency that issues driver’s licenses.

Convicted offenders would be required to register annually with the state. They would get a new license each year. Failure to register could cause offenders to have their probation or parole revoked, be sent to jail for up to six months and/or pay a fine up to a $500 fine.

State Police also would be required to notify local authorities when a “sexual predator has been released from imprisonment.”

Another bill moving through the statehouse had a provision removed that sought to make it easier to recognize drunken drivers.

The House Criminal Justice Committee deleted a requirement from a bill that multiple offenders attach special orange license plates with the letters “DWI” to their vehicles. The Senate previously approved the bill with the orange-plate requirement.

The bill – SB47 – initially required the plates be placed on vehicles registered and primarily driven by offenders for five years. The plates would have cost $25 a year, in addition to regular license fees.

The measure included a fine if DWI drivers are caught driving another vehicle without the license plate.

Anyone not following the rule would have faced up to six months in prison and/or a $500 fine.

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

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