Can The State Create Reasonable Suspicion?

This proposal would require special plates for repeat drunken drivers.

According to the article, Georgia, Minnesota, and Ohio require special license plates for convicted drunk drivers, and the plates in Ohio are bright orange.

Would driving with these special plates create enough reasonable suspicion to justify a stop? Or, even if they do not create reasonable suspicion per se, could they contribute enough to make even otherwise overlooked behavior, such as driving just slightly above the speed limit, grounds for a stop? The obvious slippery slope argument here is that we could have every kind of criminal labeled so that the police could keep a special eye on them, a la The Scarlet Letter.

"Hey, that guy with the 'M' on his shirt was previously convicted of marijuana possession. Let's go search him!"

And what in the world makes them think that this would be effective? It doesn't stop drunk drivers from driving rental cars. And, as the article points out, there's no guarantee that it's the convicted drunk driver driving at any particular time, and not a friend or family member.

Ostensibly, the purpose is to prevent deadly accidents. But how is this going to prevent accidents? People will jump out of the crosswalks when they see license plates beginning in "D" coming at them? Cars will pull over and let them pass? Parents will make their kids, who had been jumping around in the back seat, buckle their seatbelts? No, they'll just get pulled more over. I guess the concept is that this will cause less accidents because they'll spend more time pulled over, digging out their license and registration, and less time actually driving?

It just amazes me how much power MADD and similar organizations have over the legislature. I guess drunk driving is an easy issue to get tough on and not look bad to anyone. That and sex offenders. So sad that they can't spend their time doing something to actually help somebody.


  1. This is probably more far-fetched and more ridiculous than most Megan's law statutes. The article states:

    The license numbers or letters _ the specific code hasn't been determined _ would allow police to quickly identify motorists convicted of driving while intoxicated. Police could then stop the cars without further cause, said the bill's sponsors

    What? Stop people only on the basis of a past conviction? That's not even close to reasonable suspicion. That's discrimination.

    There are so many problems with this bill, from ex-post facto issues, to harassment to equal protection.

    But most of all, it's pointless, knee-jerk and stupid.

  2. I also heard of a bill recently to make sex offenders use pink license plates. They're both ridiculous.

  3. An interesting idea. The MADD'ers certainly do have a lot of power. Because they vote and are vocal they tend to get what they want. But, what lobby do drunk drivers have?

    If the special plate was required as part of probation, then they might have to sign away the PC requirement as part of the probation. I know in some states that probationers/parolees are required to allow PO's and police to search their homes.

    By itself, the plate would only contribute to reasonable suspicion, but not very much. "I saw the license plate and decided to follow the car." An officer would need PC to make the stop "and as I followed I saw the following traffic violations..."

    The Supremes have said many times that when we elect to drive our cars in public we have a much lower expectation of privacy. I wonder how that would apply here.

  4. I live in Ohio, and here they are known as 'party plates'. you do see quite a few of them around, and they are more of a yellow then a bright orange, but definitly different from our normal plates. I havent really seen or heard of any stories about these people getting stopped more.

  5. I'm curious as to how these are written. As you note, there's no guarantee that the driver of a given car is the person who owns it.

    So, suppose I'm a multi-DUI (he'rsh to you!). What's to stop my wife/SO/father/ whatever from buying and plating the car I regularly drive?

    This sounds a lot like the effect is to only "tag" poor drunks with a missing saftey net. A DUI with a good job can easily find a way around this; ditto, someone with family.

  6. My state, MA, charges me as 3rd offender, oui, after a 1983 conviction and a 1987 conviction, which could have been won if I pursued it. But THEN, the matter was GONE if you stayed out of trouble for 6 years. I knew I could do that, and did, so I pleaded guilty for the lower short-term cost in lost worktime. How foolish that I didn't know what would happen in the 21st century. In 2002, the state legislature literally multiplied the PAST, 1987 expiry by a factor of INFINITY, deleting a 6 year expiry to increase NO EXPIRY for LIFE. Obviously, they changed the cost/benefit analysis for the defendant drastically, EX POST FACTO, so that something that wasn't economically worth fighting for in 1987 in an acceptable, successful calculated risk, was INFINITELY increased in risk to the defendant 19 YEARS LATER. They say it's not ex post facto because only the 3rd offense, which was legislatively changed from a first offense 10 years after it became a first offense, causes the ex post facto changes for the 1980s offenses. [NO injury or property damage in any of these allegations]
    They also say that the Registry of Motor Vehicles can impose 9 years license suspension independent of judicial outcome. If court convicts, there is a mandatory 6 months prison. This extremist law will ruin many professionals in their 50s and 60s who are in their retirement-preparation, productive years, and are heavily bearing burdens of eldercare that the state does not want. Politics has trumped the contitutions. One state even says revocation of license is exempt from ex post facto protections because it is not punishment; only jail is punishment. Is there ANY recourse when the judiciary itself has obvious contempt for the state and federal constitutions in its politically motivated rulings? Any comments? I am not in the law trade...