Many people expect that a driving while intoxicated (DWI) conviction would lead to serious consequences such as fines, driver’s license suspension, or even jail time. But what if a conviction would also lead to some very public humiliation? Is public humiliation an effective deterrent to driving while intoxicated or impaired? Some states and cities think so, and that trend appears to be growing.
In 2006, the Albuquerque, NM City Council passed a law requiring that the mug shots of convicted DUI offenders be published in city newspapers. The idea behind this law was to shame the offenders so much that they would not repeat their crimes, and that others would not be tempted to drive while intoxicated or under the influence. If that law seems a bit excessive, check out the Ohio law that requires special license plates for some DUI offenders. Any Ohio driver that is convicted of a DUI can be required to install DUI-specific license plates on their vehicle. These bright yellow and red plates alert other motorists (and police officers) that the driver has been convicted of a DUI at least once.
Minnesota has a similar law that can require convicted offenders to utilize a “whiskey plate.” Minnesota whiskey plates feature a prominent letter “W” on the license plate preceding other letters and numbers. Like the Ohio and Albuquerque laws, this whiskey plate law is intended to shame drivers with DUI convictions and serves as very public warnings not to drink and drive. In 2013, one Minnesota police department took the DWI shaming tactic to Twitter. The department posted the names of every driver arrested for DWI, even though those drivers had not been convicted of the crime.
Perhaps the most extreme DWI/DUI shaming law belongs to Tennessee. On top of paying a $350 fine, a one-year license suspension, a mandatory 48-hour imprisonment, probation, and alcohol education classes, convicted DUI offenders in Tennessee are required to perform 24 hours of humiliating community service. Why is it humiliating? The TN Shaming Law requires the offender is made to wear a neon green vest that reads, “I am a drunk driver” during the public community service. And all of those penalties are just for a first offense. Some Tennessee law enforcement officers believe the law is expensive and ineffective to actually preventing DUI recidivism.
Currently, New York is not considering any DWI shaming laws. Deanna Russo, the Executive Director for the Crusade Against Impaired Driving (CAID) believes New York should stay away from the trend, arguing that DUI shaming laws are ineffective. Russo believes that public humiliation, while potentially enticing for a judge or a victim’s family, is not the way to handle drunk driving. CAID advocates for stricter penalties that do not include public shaming, and creating more community awareness about the dangers of drunk driving.
For now, states with these shaming laws will continue enforcing the public shame in the hopes it will prevent future DWIs. Time will tell how many other states join the shaming law trend. Hopefully, time will also reveal the actual effectiveness of these laws on preventing drunk driving.
DISCLAIMER: The exclusive purpose of this article is educational and it is not intended as either legal advice or a general solution to any specific legal problem. Corporate offices for Nave DWI Defense Attorneys are located at 269 W. Jefferson St.; Syracuse, New York 13202; Telephone No.: (315) 473-0899. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. Attorney Advertising.