Yellow License Plates for DUI Offenders?

The Seattle Times reports that a bill has been introduced in Washington state that would require convicted D.U.I. offenders to use fluorescent-yellow license plates for a year after their driving privileges are restored. The bill’s sponsors see the license plates as a means of informing law enforcement that the driver has a history of D.U.I.s, and a signal to other drivers to “give a wider berth” to the potentially dangerous driver — not to mention providing an added disincentive for would-be drunk driving. Though whether the threat of public embarrassment serves as a good enough incentive to change behavior remains to be seen.

Liz Welsh

"But if we really want to punish DUI offenders... why not issue licenses whereby they are not allowed to purchase alcohol?"

In Massachusetts, people who aren't licensed to drive can be issued a State ID and a separate Liquor ID. People who've had their licenses taken away due to a DUI can get a State ID but not the Liquor ID, and most stores and bars won't serve people on State IDs. Granted I said most and it is an imperfect system, but at least it only affects the DUI offender (unlike a license plate on a shared car).


Having recently got a DWI myself, I'd rather not something like this be the case. But then again not wanting to deal with the penalties is generally what is meant to deter people from breaking the law.


"Drunk drivers are easily spotted with or without the plates - they are the ones swerving all over the place."

How do you distinguish them from the drivers using cellular telephones, without coming dangerously close to them?

Luke M Drescher

What are the other alternatives?
Keep em' locked up?
Take and keep away their license? This and the above could prove to be real hardship on his/her support of their family.

Another alternative could be stricter laws and enforcement where drinking is done and the wide open sale of intoxicating drinks.


One thing that hasn't been mentioned is how ridiculously blown out of proportion all of the drunk driving statistics are. All of the stats trumpeted around to shame and discriminate against drunk drivers are about "alcohol-related incidents." If I'm a designated driver with three drunk friends in my car and I crash into a median and we all die, it gets chalked up as four alcohol-related driving deaths even though alcohol had nothing to do with the crash. Not to mention other ridiculous laws like college kids getting "minor transporting alcohol" violations for driving their drunk friends home.

The anti-alcohol neo-temperance movement in this country is completely out of hand. MADD, while started for admirably reasons, is now taking advantage of how bulletproof it has become to push their own moral agenda.


Anyone who's done something wrong has lost all rights to privacy, ever. (Yes, this is everyone.)

I want to know if someone's driven drunk.

I want to know if someone's been speeding.

I want to know if someone's transmitted an STD.

None of these are functionally different in the quantity of harm they cause, so they shouldn't be treated with different levels of 'privacy'.


In Australia, learner drivers display an L plate. Those who have just got their licence have a provisional licence, and must show a P plate.

If I remember the rules rightly...
Anyone caught drink driving (who who accumulates enough other traffic offences) loses their licence for some period. When you get it again, you have to have P plates for a while, meaning most people over 21 with Ps are back on the road after being disqualified. This is more subtle and far easier than a different coloured plate, and if the the fines and disqualifications are the right magnitude, then that seems fair to me.

Some repeat offenders are permanently disqualified. And I like the weight limit idea.


Drunk drivers are violent, dangerous criminals who murder thousands of Americans every year. They should be in prison, not driving around with special license plates.


@48: You wrote, "I *love* the idea of an alcohol-buying license. You could then revoke it not only for DUI, but also for supplying alcohol to a minor."

If we go that route, then we may as well just get rid of the minor-vs-adult distinction for alcohol. Develop a test for alcohol licensing and let anyone take it. Then "supplying alcohol to a minor" becomes "supplying alcohol to anyone who isn't licensed".


I would be disinclined to think that the threat of public embarrassment would be a disincentive to drive drunk had I not lived in the crazy little netherworld of Aspen, CO. Movie stars and your name in the "cops and courts section of the daily paper the morning after a DUI arrest. I knew two people that were dumb enough to drive drunk ............ there biggest fears upon arrest etc. was not the legal system but the social system. Comparing a small liberal highly educated town to the real world is not fair but in Aspen it was a huge deterrent. One friend was at the airport within an hour of getting out of jail she preferred missing the first 2 weeks of March (the best skiing) to the glances and ribbing. Aspen also has some great programs to make it easy to avoid driving drunk. Tipsy Taxi (known to everyone as Tixy Tapsi) allows you to trade a bartender your car keys for a free cab ride and having any tickets or towing fees waived.



Ohio already gives a yellow license plate with red lettering to anyone with 2 DUI offenses.


the sentiment is understandable, but unlikely to be that helpful in the short or long run.
So the state thinks "shaming" or "profiling" will make a difference. This does come under the aegis of "profiling" as any user of said vehicle will be profiled by any and all law enforcement. What is to prevent changing to whom the auto is registered?

The other is that this might somehow weigh into the giant balance sheet to help convince the offender that this is not an okay behavior; it is behavior that needs to be changed.

Unfortunately, mandated treatment programs also have limited efficacy. Much research needs to done on how to help these mandated, basically pre-contemplative abusers (i.e., most believe they DO NOT have an alcohol problem) into committed to change.

Unfortunately, breathalyzer interlocks are still too expensive to be mandated.


As someone from Ohio (where they have this already), as purely anecdotal evidence I have taken advantage of that information to know that someone who's weaving a bit in their lane may be someone I want to stay more clear of than your average driver. It makes at least as much sense as the other license-color law regarding sex offenders.

Unfortunately, thanks to the no-cell-phone laws there was no easy way to report the cars I've seen engaging in drunk or reckless driving.


It's not about "hassel" (sic), it's about people who have not committed any crime being punished for someone else's crime. Have one-car families become so rare in America that they no longer need to be considered by the makers of public policy? In this country people are held legally responsible for their OWN actions, not the actions of their family members. Under a "scarlet letter" policy, an innocent spouse can be subjected to increased police surveillance and social stigma for no other reason than driving the family car. She has never convicted a crime, has never had the opportunity to defend herself in a court of law - but she is subject to punishment for her husband's actions. Is this right? Is it even SAFE, if the police and the public are so busy surveilling yellow-tagged cars that they miss the erratic operation of a non-tagged car? Or is the message that drunk driving is so evil that convicted drivers should be ostracized, not only from society at large, but from their own households and families - that a drunk driver taints everyone he associates with?

Meanwhile, drivers who are impaired by conditions other than alcohol - legal prescription medication, lack of sleep, talking on their cell phones etc. - continue to menace everyone on the road, scot-free.



Doesn't alcohol impair your judgment? If so then isn't it a bit of a set-up for people under the influence of something that impairs their judgment to then be expected to exercise good judgment?

and no I don't have any DUI's

or drink all that much now that I think about it

I've got to get out more.


This has been happening in Ohio for as long as I've been aware. As far as I've noticed, it's definitely cut down on DUIs. Of course, I'm in high school, so the social stigma of a yellow licence plate is probably more intense than it is in the "real world".


Everyone seems so concerned about the driver and the effect on their family. I hate to say it they should have thought about the effect which it would have before they drove drunk.

Also everyone seems to have the "where does it end?" mentality. I believe that putting marked plates on a CAR of an owner/DRIVER who was convicted of DUI would be applicable and reasonable for the crime. The person was convicted of a driving related offense. An offense which has a proven tendency to be repeated. Honestly, my belief is that driving is a priveledge and not a right, I believe they should probably not be able to drive. Many will and do anyways, this is where tagging there car could also come in handy.


Consider this flame bait. Let's just brand every citizen that commits a crime above a certain TBD "level". Those citizen's are no longer able to vote (so that they can't change the law), work in govt or public safety jobs or any jobs that are related to their crime. (alcohol related crimes = no work with alcohol) All citizens criminal activity is made public for everyone to see meaning that once you commit a crime and you become a public liability from that point on. Come on only a criminal would be against this type of law.

Pat O'Connell

Why are drunk drivers allowed to drive at all? Why haven't their licenses been revoked for life?

- Posted by TC

TC, You may have a point. Why not take their licenses and while we're at it why not the licenses of anyone who may potentially hurt old drivers, young drivers, people with limited vision, and people who have actually caused accidents and hurt others from speeding or other forms of negligence. Pretty soon the roads will be as safe as you wish because noone will have a license, except you I presume. Many people like yourself suffer under the delusion that those who have been ticketed for driving under the influence have necessarily caused mayhem and murder of other innocent drivers when the case is only a very small percentage of those convicted of DUI have actually done any real damage at all. Here's a new word for you: proportionality. Be careful, TC, pretty soon your confederates will be coming after your rights.



The police already have a method they can use to tell all sorts of information about the registered owner of the vehicle. It's called the license plate. Cameras on the cruiser can scan the plates and display owner information and records on they in car display.

The colors only serve to invade the privacy of the driver, and incite the public to go back to "mob rule". Here in America we have a justice system to dispense justice. If individuals are invited to dispense justice, we are no longer just.