You may have heard that a few states, including Georgia, require people who have been convicted of DUI to have special license plates on their vehicle. These have been called everything from “party plates” to “scarlet letter plates.”
People have argued, with good reason, that such license plates further stigmatize people who have already served their time or otherwise paid the required penalties for their offense – along with other family members who may be driving a vehicle with these plates.
What does Georgia law say?
After a driver’s second or subsequent DUI conviction within five years, a court can order the removal of license plates from any vehicle registered to them. This, obviously, can affect the whole family. That’s where these “hardship license plates” come in. They have “a special series of numbers and letters so as to be identifiable by law enforcement officers.”
A person can apply to get these special plates only if “there is another member of such a person’s household who possesses a valid driver’s license…[and] is completely dependent upon the motor vehicle for the necessities of life and would be subjected to undue hardship without such special license plates.”
These plates, then, are typically issued before a driver gets even limited driving privileges back. Therefore, it’s the family members who are usually driving vehicles with these plates, which can be differentiated only by their numbers and letters, and not by color or special markings.
Once a driver gets their full driving privileges reinstated, they can apply to get regular plates again. Since this can take some time, people sometimes choose to sign the title of their vehicle over to a family member so they don’t have to drive around with these plates. Even though the law states, “Such license plates shall not, in and of itself, constitute probable cause to authorize a traffic stop, search of a motor vehicle, or seizure,” drivers can certainly feel like they’re under added scrutiny from law enforcement officers on the road.
Even if you’re facing a first-time DUI arrest and don’t have to worry about consequences like special license plates, it’s crucial to take it seriously and explore all of your options for getting the charge reduced or dismissed. Having legal guidance can help.