Special license tags for sex offenders sought in various states

| Friday, June 15, 2007

The worst sex offenders in Wisconsin would be required to display bright green license plates when they get behind the wheel if a bill in the Assembly eventually becomes state law. Other states are pursuing similar efforts.

The Wisconsin bill would mandate serious child molesters and violent sex offenders to display the distinctive plates on any personal or commercial vehicle they own following their release from prison. Those offenders already are slated to be tracked by global positioning satellites starting July 1.

Rep. Joel Kleefisch, R-Oconomowoc, said offenders could drive their employers’ vehicles without the sex offender pates, but only when they’re working.

Anyone who doesn’t adhere to the rules set in the bill would face up to $25,000 fines and/or up to 10 years in prison. Simply driving a vehicle without the green plates could result in up to $10,000 fines and/or six years behind bars.

Advocates say the special plates would be a good method for warning parents and children.

“Cracking down on these offenders and giving families more tools for recognizing danger is of utmost importance in stopping these types of crimes,” Kleefisch said in a written statement.

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

The bill – AB226 – has advanced from the Assembly Criminal Justice Committee to the Assembly Rules Committee where it will be scheduled for consideration on the chamber floor.

Ohio
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 idea 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 all vehicles 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 pink was associated with breast cancer survivors, The AP reported.

The rule would not be retroactive for all sex offenders.

The bills – HB83 and SB56 – are in committees.

Oklahoma
Gov. Brad Henry has signed a bill into law to identify Oklahoma’s worst sex offenders on their driver’s licenses. The bill – SB35 – requires aggravated or habitual offenders to obtain a new license bearing the words “sex offender.” Those who fail to comply could have their license canceled for one year and be fined up to $200.

Sen. Brian Crain, R-Tulsa, said the new law will be especially helpful for businesses to identify workers who shouldn’t be around children as part of their job duties.

Alabama
An Alabama bill has died that would have allowed judges to order people convicted of sex offenses involving children under 12 to buy distinctive license plates for their vehicles. The annual price tag for the plates would have been $50.

The Alabama Department of Revenue would have designed the license plate.

Sponsored by Rep. Marc Keahey, D-Grove Hill, the bill would have applied to “private passenger or pleasure motor vehicles.” Failure to comply with a judge’s order could have netted offenders up to $3,000 in fines and up to six months in jail.

The bill – HB545 – remained in the House Judiciary Committee at the deadline to advance.

Missouri
An effort died in Missouri to flag sex offenders’ driver’s licenses. A special code would have been created to display on the front of offenders’ licenses to identify them.

The bill – HB224 – also would have required them to renew their licenses annually. Offenders who do not register as required would have had their driving privileges revoked.

It remained in the Senate Judiciary Committee when the session ended. The House previously approved it.

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