Are 'party plates' the answer for DUI offenses?

One form of punishment that many states use against drinking and driving defendants is to have them put special license plates on their vehicles. Ostensibly used to alert police officers, these plates also have the practical effect of publicly shaming motorists. Everyone knows what it means when they see those plates on a nearby car or truck.

Across the border in Ohio, courts have been sentencing many DUI offenders to using yellow license plates with red lettering since 2004. The plates go on vehicles with drivers with limited privileges due to a DUI conviction. They commonly are known as “party plates,” according to WOWK-TV.

West Virginia is not among the states with some form of party plates. However, the trade-off is that this state has far tougher mandatory minimum sentences for drinking and driving offenses. In West Virginia, a second conviction requires a minimum of six months in jail. In Ohio, the same conviction has a mandatory minimum jail sentence of 10 days.

This brings to mind whether the trade-off is worth it. Which would be more likely to cause someone who was convicted of drinking and driving not to do so again: a lengthy jail term or the embarrassment of being seen with “party plates”? Which punishment is more likely to help an alcoholic succeed in treatment?

It does not appear that DUI license plates are coming to West Virginia anytime soon. WOWK reports that the Governor’s Highway Safety Commission is not considering such a move. But multiple offenses can mean a long prison sentence and heavy fines.

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