DUI “Scarlet Letter” License Plates Another Bust

Posted by Lawrence Taylor on June 19th, 2009

I’ve railed long and hard in the past about the growing trend of humiliating citizens convicted of drunk driving by forcing them to have special license plates on their cars (no matter who is driving).  See, for example, The Scarlet Letters, The Return of the Scarlet Letter, and Washington State Says "No" to DUI Scarlet Letter .  The idea came from the old Salem witch trials, when women accused of adultery were branded or had to wear a scarlet "A", as memorialized in Nathaniel Hawtheorne’s classic novel The Scarlet Letter.     

Another of the hair-brained weapons in MADD’s "War on Drunk Driving", this one has proven a failure as well…

DUI Plates Are Another Flop

Akron, OH.  June 19 – When it comes to combating drunk driving, Ohio leads the league in crackpot ideas.

One of our most recent legislative brainstorms — special license plates for convicted drivers — has been a total bust.

Since the law was changed in 2004, Ohio has issued 46,627 ‘’restricted plates.'’ In Summit County alone, 2,949 individuals and/or families have been sentenced to drive around with the distinctive yellow-and-red plates, the modern equivalent of The Scarlet Letter.

If these plates were working — if the drinking populace is cowering at the notion of having to adorn its vehicles with these things — we would have experienced a significant drop in alcohol-related traffic fatalities.


If you compare the last year without special plates, 2003, to the most recent year for which statistics are available, 2007, you find that, while Ohio’s overall crash rate has plummeted, the number of alcohol-related fatalities has increased.

• Total crashes of all types: down 16 percent.

• Fatal alcohol-related crashes: up 2 percent.

• Alcohol-related fatalities per 1,000 total crashes: up 21 percent.

Lord knows how many plates would have been manufactured if the legislature hadn’t changed its mind about mandating them for every offender. Only nine months after the new law was implemented, it was adjusted to eliminate first-timers with a blood-alcohol level below 0.17 percent…

Restricted plates — originally called ‘’family plates,'’ apparently because they bring ridicule to the entire family — actually have been available since 1967, but their use was left to the discretion of judges. Clearly, most judges didn’t believe singling out DUI offenders for public humiliation was appropriate.

No kidding. If we single out drunk drivers, why no special plates for murderers, rapists, extortionists, armed robbers and child molesters?

Heck, if legislators really believe public scorn is an appropriate element in our criminal justice system, we should bring back pillories.

At least those might have an impact.

I still like the branding idea best…

  • standup

    I’m not so sure that the idea behind these plates is to humiliate as much as it is to give a heads up to police officers. The police getting permission to pull over a car bearing these tags anytime,and for NO reason whatsoever is not out of the stretch of the imagination.

  • Justin

    I know in my state if they had that license plate there would be so many it would be nearly insane. The ironic thing about license plates in my state is prisoners make them. =D

    Anyway – branding people like cain and abel and demonizing individuals has proven that it just pisses people off on both sides of the fence. I am still waiting for the BAC law to drop to .0005

  • joe

    This is ridiculous. Repeat DUI offenders already face jail time and alcohol counseling. Does anyone really think a special license plate is going to stop them from drinking and driving? And if the intent is to just give highway patrol a heads up and allow them to be pulled over at any time for any reason (or no reason at all), doesn’t that strike anyone else as unconstitutional?

  • standup

    Goal #1) Abolish Alcohol

    Goal#2) Become the richest outfit in the world

    Goal#3) Use “Stop Drunk Driving” as a “vehicle” so to speak, to get us to Goals #1&2

    Unconstitutional ? Yep !! So what ? That pesky Constitution hasn’t stopped us yet.
    Try reading “The DUI Excepton to the Constitution” a few times.

  • RichardAlan

    “Private Citizen” you and I.

    “Public Servant” -hired by you and I, works for you and I, serves you and I.

    to know thyself and to be thy master is to claim your legal status when confronted by the “Public Servant” or to claim your Constitutional Rights, namely in these cases your 4th and 5th Amendment rights.

    When you do this you will be punished for breaking a fantasy make believe law called the “Implied consent” law, or “Bylaw”

    Yes you will be punished for not providing a public servant evidence to be used against you by the Government to separate you from your money, property and freedom.

    The glass of wine I drank, being pulled over in the middle of the night for simply driving down the highway on a holiday, the make believe by the chp officer, and my refusal to offer any evidence is to know thyself and to be thy master.

    So I lost my license, my alleged DUI was dismissed in a United States Court of Law.

    The DMV was “Court Ordered” to report the correct record. The DMV has not. The DMV is report a “Phantom DUI Conviction”

    This is akin to DUI plates as to charge me for a second offense when I get stopped for drinking a glass of wine.

    My experience applies to all of us.

    I got my license back, my DUI was dismissed , the DMV is reporting I was convicted of a DUI. The DMV is dis regarding a court order.

    The DMV has an obligation and are to be held accountable to report the true and correct record. Why are the reporting a false DUI?

    What Country is the DMV from again?