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Drunk Driving License Plates

Being charged and arrested for drunk driving starts a process that can lead to major changes in a person’s life.

Following the arrest, the person will be allowed to call a friend, a family member or a bail bonds person in order to be released from jail. After the appropriate amount is paid to the bail bonds company, the arrested person will be released from jail after a process that can last for a few hours. While being in jail and waiting for the bond may not be a pleasant experience, it is much better than having to remain in custody while the case proceeds. If the person is convicted of driving under the influence, they will face several other consequences, including potential jail, ignition interlock use, the requirement for SR-22 insurance, a suspension of driving privileges and others.

Outside of the criminal justice system, people may also face increased difficulty with finding a job or housing. In the past, a person could keep the conviction relatively private from others in the community. That has changed in three states that force certain people convicted of driving drunk to use special license plates announcing their convictions to the world. The idea behind this embarrassing requirement is that the drivers will be shamed into avoiding drinking and driving in the future. In addition to the few states that have this requirement, eight more considered similar laws between 2010 and 2013.

States Requiring Drunk Driving License Plates

1. Georgia

In Georgia, people who are convicted of second DWI offenses within five years will be ordered to turn in the license plates for every vehicle registered to them. Their licenses will be suspended. In order to be able to lift the suspension and drive during the suspension period, the people must agree to apply for plates that carry a series of identifiable numbers and letters that are readable to law enforcement officers. This notifies the officers of the people’s recent convictions for DWI and the fact that they are driving on restricted licenses. Once their suspensions are over, they can then reapply with the Department of Motor Vehicles to get standard plates again.

2. Ohio

In 1967, Ohio became the first state to pass a law requiring that drivers convicted of DWI use special license plates. Enforcement of the law declined over the intervening years, but in 2004, a renewed focus on the problem of drunk driving brought increased enforcement of the law. The license plate requirement applies to all offenders other than first-time offenders who have blood alcohol concentrations of less than .17 percent. These plates are yellow with red lettering, and they must be used while the person’s license is suspended. For people who have multiple vehicles registered to them, the special plates must be used on all of them. Violations of the law can result in a maximum of six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.

3. Minnesota

People who are convicted of drunk driving in Minnesota will have their regular license plates impounded by the state if certain factors apply. People will face this action if they had a blood alcohol concentration of .16 or more or if the conviction was the second or subsequent one within the past 10 years. Others who will face this consequence include those who had minors who were age 16 or younger in their vehicles at the time of their drunk driving stops. Similarly, people who are driving drunk without having driver’s licenses will also have their plates impounded. If the person was driving another’s car, that plate will be impounded, as will as the plates of any vehicle registered to the drunk driver. The plates are impounded for about a year. During that time, the person will have to use special license plates with a sequence of numbers and letters. All of these special plates begin with a “W”, leading many people in the state to call them whiskey plates.

Additional Consequences

Drink driving convictions may lead to multiple consequences. as these states show, the potential consequences may extend beyond the courtroom and lead to other problems, such as social stigma, problems finding jobs and problems securing housing. After a person has posted bond, they may want to get legal help when they have been charged with drunk driving.

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