Home / New York Seeks to Brand Drunk Drivers With “Scarlet Letter” Licence Plates

New York Seeks to Brand Drunk Drivers With “Scarlet Letter” Licence Plates

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According to an article appearing in Friday’s edition of the Binghamton, NY-based Press and Sun Bulletin, Nick Spano (R-Westchester) and Tom Libous (R-Binghamton) proposed a legislative measure which would punish repeat DUI offenders by forcing them to purchase and display alphabetically and/or numerically coded license plates to facilitate police surveillance. Though the New York State branch of the American Civil Liberties Union have raised questions about the constitutional ethics of such punitive activity, similar measures have successfully been implemented in Georgia, Minnesota and Ohio, where convicted drunken drivers must use color-coded license plates.

The proposed legislation, according to the Press and Sun Bulletin story, would require all drivers convicted of three DUI offenses in a five year period or four offenses within a decade to use the new license plates for a period of two years. Senator Spano’s website, however, reports that the legislation would require a driver to surrender his or her license plates after three DWI offenses in five years or five offenses within a ten-year span. Furthermore, Spano’s website reports, a driver would also have to give up his or her plates if convicted of DWI while driving with a minor under the age of sixteen as a passenger, if he or she refuses to submit to a chemical test, or if the driver’s blood-alcohol level is greater than .20.

Additionally, according to Spano’s press release, the proposed bill “would make it a crime for a driver to operate outside the parameters of a conditional license–currently it is only a traffic violation.

This would apply to a conditional license holder on a public highway for an unauthorized purpose. Usually conditional licenses permit a driver to get to and from their place of employment.

Such operation would result in a misdemeanor charge and suspension of their vehicle registration for 90 days.”

The bill also proposes harsher penalties for those drivers convicted of driving with a suspended or revoked license.

My opinions on the matter can be found here.

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  • I see ’em everywhere in Ohio. Not only are the piss yellow “party plates” embarrassing, they’re downright hideous, just like the Cavaliers yellow home jerseys.

  • RJ

    Sounds like good legistlation to me. No wonder the ACLU opposes it! 😛

    It’s not like they are stigmatizing first-time offenders. These clowns have been DWI three times in the last five years!

    They are clearly a danger, and the public has a right to be wary of them…

  • RJ-
    Seriously. That’s pretty much what I wrote in my own analysis of the story. I really don’t understand why anyone would deserve a fifth chance in a decade…

  • RJ

    Glad to see we agree! 🙂

  • My main disagreement is with the “scarlet letter” reference. Habitually driving while impaired causes far more danger and real harm to the public than adultery ever has.


    Pretty small area for disagreement, isn’t it?

  • Victor,

    You are quite right in noting that an adulterer or adultress in the tradition of Reverend Dimmesdale or Hester Prynne is usually rather benign when juxtaposed with a drunk driver. However (I seem to have omitted this in the body of the article), the “Scarlet Letter” reference in the title refers to the nickname the plates have earned in Ohio. I think the “scarlet letter” monicker refers more to the practice of labelling a criminal than to classifying the crime as similar in social impact to that of marital infidelity.

  • Making the plates yellow is pure genius. That’s all.

  • wesley

    Yellow for dui’s. Pink for Fags, Green for Dopers, Orangs for theives, Red for wife beaters, Black for Racists, an so on. That is the problem.

  • linda

    i a wife of a drunk driver, 3 dwi 1 dui in less the 4 yr had ankle braclet 1 yr and in his 4 hr fee time a week spent in a bar. i cll on him with the last dwi in hope they would stop him i my self concened for the safty of other on the road they did put a blower in his truck for almost 2 yr as him and his friends try to hook up a fish pump to it so he can drive did not work thank god and i did cll his probation officer and try to stop him but im only one person after he got his blower off his truck it only took him 3 day before he was again driving drunk im just letting u know. the law are not any differnt and they need to have more testing and better why to stop this im sorry and im scared for the driver next to my husband and no matter what i say im just a made or bitter wife trying to get her husband in trouble if i keep clling so they dont really care if im just trying to save other from being killed or hurt im just a bitter wife thank up i hope u can do something to change the law soon.