Washington lawmakers are considering a new way to punish DUI offenders. An article in the Wall Street Journal talks about a bill that was introduced by Republican Representative Norman Smith of Clinton, Washington proposes the use of so called “whiskey plates” as an added penalty of DUI. This law would require first time DUI offenders to replace their license plates with special license plates that end with the letter ‘Z'. The plates are designed to be easy to recognize and only to be issued to DUI drivers.
The idea behind these plates is that other drivers and police will be able to identify drivers who have been convicted of DUI. Not only will this add an unwanted stigma that drivers will want to avoid, police will be more likely to watch driver's with “whiskey plates” more closely. Opponents of the bill have already come out and said that it will lead to unfair police harassment and labelling of drivers. For example, if a young person gets a DUI in their parents' car, will the parents have to be labelled DUI offenders?
Similar laws are already on the books in a few states like Minnesota. The article does not mention how effective the plates have been and do data could be found to show there was any significant decrease in DUI arrests after the plates were put into use.
This idea does not seem like an effective way to combat DUI. The purpose of drivers installing these plates is not even clear. In Washington, a police officer needs reasonable suspicion to stop a driver and evaluate them for intoxication. The fact that they or someone they share a car with have been convicted of DUI does not give police the right to stop them. If the idea is simply to shame DUI offenders, it is not likely to make a big impact on the number of people who choose to drink and drive.