WA bill would make drunk drivers have special license plates

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by ELISA HAHN / KING 5 News

Bio | Email | Follow: @ElisaHahnK5

KING5.com

Posted on February 14, 2011 at 5:52 PM

Updated Monday, Feb 14 at 11:37 PM

Poll:
A bill in the Washington state Legislature would require convicted drunk drivers to have a "Z" on the end of their license plate. Do you agree with this?

OLYMPIA, Wash.-- In the search for tougher DUI legislation, one lawmaker has an idea that may discourage drunks from getting behind the wheel.

Representative Norma Smith of Clinton wants to require drivers convicted of DUI after 2012 to have a special license plate designated with the letter Z.

"It provides a tool for law enforcement… just to be aware that the car is registered to someone with a dui conviction and to provide a little extra scrutiny,” says Smith.

She believes the plates would also serve as an incentive to avoid repeat offenses.
Several states like Minnesota have a similar law in place, calling them “whiskey plates.”

But defense attorneys say the bill is a scarlet letter, putting unfair scrutiny for the majority of first time offenders never offend again.

"This is a once in a lifetime incident, they have learned a profound and painful lesson already and to stigmatize them further isn't necessary and doesn’t serve any useful purpose,” says attorney Stephen Hayne.

But Smith disagrees. "There is no special coloring, there is nothing to draw attention to it,” she says.

For decades the state has struggled to protect our roads from drunk drivers, but Smith says these days any bill that costs taxpayer money dies quickly.

She says this one is far from a final solution, but pays for itself.

"There is a fee to receive your license so that covers the cost, and so it shouldn't be expensive at all.”

Smith says convicted drivers would be required to have the plates for three years, after their license is reinstated.

House Bill 1955 has already received support of the Washington Council of Police and Sheriffs.

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