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Should DUI Offenders Display a Scarlet Letter on Their Vehicles

In a move that has sparked controversy and debate, confident Mississippi lawmakers have proposed a unique DUI deterrence tactic – requiring repeat DUI offenders to display a distinct “Scarlet Letter” on their vehicles. Much like the scarlet “A” that Hester Prynne wore in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel “The Scarlet Letter,” this proposal suggests that drivers with two DUI convictions should affix a special yellow license plate to signify their offenses, with the cost of the plate to be covered by the offenders themselves.

While some lawmakers believe that public embarrassment can be an effective deterrent to repeated drunk driving offenses, others argue that this idea is both extreme and unnecessary. Let’s delve into the debate surrounding this proposal and examine whether it could become a reality in Mississippi.

The Controversial Proposal

The proposal, introduced by a Mississippi state representative, seeks to impose this unique punishment on individuals with two DUI convictions. The reasoning behind this initiative is that the embarrassment and shame associated with displaying a special license plate would be a powerful deterrent, discouraging individuals from driving under the influence again.

However, only some people support this idea. Another state representative has criticized it as ludicrous, contending that making a mistake should not lead to public humiliation. This opposing view argues that there are more effective ways to address drunk driving issues without resorting to shame-based sentences.

Similar Measures in Other States

Although this concept may seem unusual, some states have already implemented similar measures. In Ohio and Minnesota, these distinctive plates are often called “whiskey plates” or “party plates.” The goal is to alert law enforcement and the public to the driver’s previous DUI convictions.

However, opponents of such measures have raised several valid concerns. One primary concern is that past DUI convictions should not automatically constitute probable cause for law enforcement to pull a driver over. Individuals displaying these plates may face increased and, arguably, unwarranted scrutiny from police officers.

Another noteworthy concern is the potential impact on innocent individuals. For instance, consider a scenario where a spouse with a previous DUI conviction shares a vehicle with their partner. The innocent partner, unaware of the vehicle’s distinct license plate, could face judgment and suspicion from others, including parents and teachers, when dropping off children at school.

The Situation in Colorado

As of now, Colorado does not have any proposed Scarlet Letter laws or similar measures in place. However, it is essential to note that shame-based sentences are not exclusive to Mississippi or other states with distinctive license plates. Across the USA, judges sometimes sentence individuals to stand on street corners holding signs displaying their crimes. In one case, a Texas man was even sentenced to spend 30 nights in a doghouse. These practices are remnants of historical punishment methods such as the stocks and the pillory.


In conclusion, the debate over whether DUI offenders should display a Scarlet Letter on their vehicles continues to generate discussions among lawmakers and the public. While some believe it could serve as an effective deterrent, others argue that it raises concerns about privacy, probable cause, and the potential for unjust judgments. Colorado has no similar proposals, but it remains essential for individuals facing DUI charges to seek legal guidance and representation when navigating the legal system. Our team of Denver DUI defense attorneys at Thomas & Ahnell, LLC is dedicated to preserving your rights and providing the legal assistance you need during your DUI case.

Do you have further questions or concerns? Call us or contact the attorneys at Thomas & Ahnell, LLC, and we will be happy to help.

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