Special license tags for sex offenders sought in Ohio

| 3/6/2007

From the state that made bright yellow license plates mandatory for some convicted drunken drivers, a new effort would make Ohio's worst sex offenders go green.

Two Ohio state lawmakers want all habitual and child-oriented sex offenders to be forced to display fluorescent green license plates for at least five years after their release from prison. The first-of-its-kind legislation has the backing of Gov. Ted Strickland.

Rep. Michael DeBose, D-Cleveland, and Sen. Kevin Coughlin, R-Cuyahoga Falls, are the sponsors of the legislation that would require the plates for any personal - or commercial vehicle - owned by the offender. They offered a similar bill a couple years ago that called for sex offenders to display pink license plates but changed the color because it was associated with breast cancer survivors, The Associated Press reported.

They say it would be a good method for warning parents and children. The rule would not be retroactive for all sex offenders.

Opponents say the legislation could leave children with the idea that anyone without the special plates was safe to approach, The AP reported. They also fear the plates could lead to harassment of people who've already been punished.

The state already requires drivers with multiple drunken driving convictions to display bright yellow tags that identify them to police for random stops.

Similar effort in Oklahoma

In Oklahoma, the state Senate Monday, March 5, overwhelmingly approved similar legislation. Sponsored by Sen. Brian Crain, R-Tulsa, the bill would identify registered sex offenders on their state driver's licenses.

The bill - SB35 - would require convicted sex offenders to obtain a new license stating their status as a sex offender. Those who fail to comply could have their license canceled for one year and be fined up to $200.

Crain said the bill would be especially helpful for businesses to identify workers who shouldn't be around children as part of their job duties. It has been forwarded to the House for further consideration.

The Ohio bills - HB83 and SB56 - are awaiting assignment to committee and are in the Senate Judiciary-Criminal Justice Committee, respectively.