A recent article by a Las Vegas news station explored a push in the Nevada legislature that has some popular support and that would require drunk drivers receive a special, and eye catching license plate. The proposal is aimed to help reduce drunk driving by singling convicted drunk drivers out for public shaming, an embarrassing prospect that supporters hope would give people second thoughts before jumping behind the wheel while intoxicated.
One state that supporters are looking to as an example is Ohio which embraced the concept of what are known as “drunk tags” several years ago. The way the law currently works in Ohio is that for every driver with two or more DUI convictions within six years or any driver that has been stopped with an especially high BAC level (even if it is the driver’s first DUI) it is possible to assign them special plates.
In Ohio, drunk drivers are given vivid yellow license plates that are mean to call attention to the fact that these DUI offenders are driving with limited privileges. Those with yellow plates are also subjected to random stops by police officers who are legally allowed to check on the status of operators of the cars. Ohio law allows offenders to exchange the plates for regular license plates when the license restrictions have expired.
Public safety officials in Nevada note the nearly 15,000 DUI arrests that took place across the state last year and say that while no bill has officially been proposed this session, anti-drunk driving groups have begun advocating for the measure to be seriously considered.
Though every state in the country permits the issuance of limited or restricted driver’s licenses for those who have been convicted of drunk driving, only a handful of states have laws that allow for special license plates to publicly single drunk drivers out. Beyond Ohio, two other states that embrace special license plates include Georgia and Minnesota. In both of these states license plates appear to be the same as others, no special colors reveal the drunk driving conviction, instead special numbers or letters are used to signify the previous legal trouble.
Here in Minnesota, the law says that special DWI license plates, referred to as “whiskey plates,” can be issued to drivers involved in certain kinds of drunk driving incidents. The plates differ from normal Minnesota plates in that they all start with the letter “W” (thus the name) and are always followed with another letter and then four numbers. The whiskey plates are handed out to drivers whose normal license plates are deemed “impounded,” something that happens in cases of high BAC (over 0.16 percent) or multiple drunk driving infractions in a 10-year period.
An important distinction from the law in Ohio is that here in Minnesota, officers are not allow to simply stop vehicles with whiskey plates for no reason. The Minnesota Supreme Court rejected an attempt by the state legislature to allow officers to stop any vehicle with such plates without cause. The Court said that officers must have probable cause before pulling over any driver in the state. That being said, it’s true that those driving vehicles with whiskey plates should expect some increased scrutiny by law enforcement officers.
Source: Michael Loardi, published at KTNV.com.