Special License Plates or Plate Markings

License plate markings are a method by which motorists convicted of a DUI/DWI can be easily identified. The practice of license plate marking is typically used instead of impounding or immobilization of vehicles-processes which tend to be more costly. Although this method is intrusive, at least the vehicle’s owner and/or offender are allowed to continue using the vehicle, provided that the driver’s license has not already been suspended.

The downside to having a special license plate or marking is that it can constitute probable cause for the automobile to be stopped and for the driver to be questioned regarding any irregular driving behavior. Although the same as other types of profiling, it is not considered unlawful because the option to have a special license plate or marking is voluntary and chosen in place of the other often more inconvenient alternates.

In Minnesota, a series of unique letters appear on license plates that have been assigned to motorists who have been convicted of driving while intoxicated. Use of these unique plates is required by the offender. The offender’s use of another vehicle, in order to avoid displaying the special plate, could constitute a violation for both the offender and the owner of the other vehicle.

In the states of Washington and Oregon, DWI offenders were given special stickers to affix on top of the traditional expiration sticker to denote their status. Due to a lack of community support for this program, it expired, and use of the stickers was not continued.

Upon expiration of the applicable order imposing the use of a special license plate or marking, the offender must submit an application for a new license plate or for a covering to be placed over the old marking or sticker. Fees may be associated with either of these processes and must be paid in advance.

Instead of purchasing a new license plate or covering the old marking, the offender may choose to continue using the existing plate, but he or she must understand that law enforcement agencies will continue to treat the offender as though the penalty is still active.