DWI License Plates

DWI License Plates

Various states have experimented with DWI license plates as a sanction imposed after a person has been convicted of criminally driving while intoxicated. In most states the penalties related to DWI license plates only apply for repeat offenders, though some state laws allow for DWI license plates on a first offense. This alternative DWI penalty has been tested by a number of states seeking a way to reduce recidivism and creating an easier way for police to identify DWI offenders on the road.

There are three general methods that states employ to prevent DWI offenders from driving while intoxicated after a conviction: vehicle impoundment, preventing vehicle mobilization via the club or boot, and confiscating a DWI offender's license plates. Most of these sanctions apply to repeat offenders. By separating an offender from their vehicles and allowing easy identification of offenders, states have found that they have been able to deter offenders from subsequent offenses. Approximately 20 states have laws that allow for the impoundment of an offender's license plates.

In addition to confiscating DWI license plates from an offender, some states have experimented with adding “zebra tag” stickers to license plates to identify them as DWI license plates. These striped stickers allow law enforcement to identify prior repeat offenders by their DWI license plates and enable them to pull over a vehicle to check license status. DWI license plates may be issued only during the time an offender's license is restricted or permanently.

Both Oregon and Washington states have enacted laws regarding DWI license plates. They employed zebra tag DWI license plates to deter drivers from driving on a suspended license. Oregon DWI plates were found to effectively decrease the rate of accidents and subsequent offenses by DWI offenders. Washington found that the DWI license plates had no significant effect. Both states have allowed their DWI license plates laws expire without renewal.

The state of New York proposed a new DWI license plate law in 2005 that would force persons receiving three DWI convictions within five years to place special DWI license plates on their vehicles. The proposed DWI license plates are part of New York's effort to toughen their DWI laws. This law would give police the authority to pull over vehicles with DWI license plates without further cause to check the status of the driver's license and potentially evaluate the driver for possible intoxication. Other states have also proposed DWI license plate laws similar to those proposed in New York.

While all states do not have specific DWI license plates laws on the books, DWI license plates may be part of the total DWI penalty that a judge orders in an offender's case. This alternative penalty may even be a favorable alternative to a traditional penalty like incarceration. If you would like to learn more about DWI license plates and the specific laws applicable to your state and case, please contact us to speak with a qualified and experienced DWI defense attorney in your area.

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