QOTD: The State of a Scarlet Letter?

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis
qotd the state of a scarlet letter

Last week’s QOTD post about states and their respective license plates generated a few comments about a particular plate issued by the state of Ohio. In today’s question, we dive a little deeper and focus solely on this Ohio plate, which just happens to be more unique than every other license plate in use today.

The plate in question is the mustard yellow one seen above. It looks nothing like the other license plates of Ohio, and that’s because it’s only available to a particular type of criminal offender. Introduced back in 1967, Ohio’s OVI (Operating a Vehicle Impaired) plates were designed as a scarlet letter for those convicted of OVI offenses.

Though they create a way to identify offenders in everyday traffic, use of the plates remained fairly limited for decades. Plates were assigned individually, and only at the discretion of a judge. The state of Ohio took notice, deciding it wanted to see expanded use of the special plates, and on January 1st, 2014, it altered the OVI legislation. Plates became mandatory for OVI offenders on their second occurrence, and also in instances where an offender’s BAC was over two times the legal driving limit.

After the OVI conviction, a driver can apply for a restricted driver’s license that requires use of the yellow OVI plate, commonly called “party plates,” within the state. The standard time requirement for carrying the plates is six months to a year. Ohio is unique in this special plate usage. While two other states (Georgia and Minnesota) can add an additional letter to an OVI offender’s plate, Ohio is the only one with an entirely different OVI plate design.

Those in favor of the special plate argue the pressure and embarrassment achieved by its usage is a good deterrent for OVI offenders, who are very inclined to become repeat offenders. The plates identify drivers who need to be watched in traffic by other motorists and police.

Those against the plate argue they unfairly shame offenders for past crimes, make them a target for police on the road, and an outcast in the employee parking lot. The plate punishes repeat offenders the same as severe first-time offenders. There’s also some collateral damage, in the shaming of passengers in a car wearing OVI plates.

As mentioned, Ohio is out there on their own on this one — no other states have followed Ohio’s example in over 50 years. As a resident of Ohio, I’ve seen these plates in use on many occasions. They’re pretty noticeable. Are these special OVI plates something other states would do well to mimic, or is Ohio off the rails on this one?

Off to you, B&B.

[Images: Ohio.gov]

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  • Lichtronamo Lichtronamo on Aug 22, 2018

    Minnesota’s whiskey plates are different than the standard plate or special edition plates. Whiskey plates start with a “W” followed by one letter and four numbers in black text on a white background. Standard plates are three numbers/three letters with an outline of the State in between in blue text on a lake scene background.

  • Road_pizza Road_pizza on Aug 23, 2018

    As a 55yr old lifelong resident of Ohio I have no problem whatsoever with these plates and the embarrassment that comes with them. Don't like the shaming? Tough sh*t, don't get DUI's. We have sexual offender registers yet no one cares that we "shame" them (which of course they deserve) yet some don't think it's right to "shame" drunk drivers?

    • Nrd515 Nrd515 on Aug 24, 2018

      Exactly! If you are numbskulled enough to get a second DUI type conviction, you ARE a problem and shamed or not, you should be identified as the dumb ass that you are. My sister's first serious boyfriend, who died recently, was a many time DUI offender, who, if I had been in charge, would have had these plates on his car from about the age of 22 on for the remaining 44 years of his life.

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