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CSP query: Should we try to shame convicted DUI motorists?

It is not immediately clear whether the Colorado State Patrol was serious or not, but it's certainly no joke that the CSP recently sought public input regarding the shaming of motorists convicted of drunk driving in the state.

Specifically, a survey authored by the CSP asked Colorado residents whether they would support "a 'scarlet letter' indicator on the license plate of a convicted drunk driver."

A famous American writer used that term in a book he wrote nearly 180 years ago. In his novel, the scarlet letter was forced to be worn on the clothing of certain individuals designated for public humiliation.

Although the CSP's suggested use for such an indicator is a bit different, of course, the thrust is the same. A prominent marker on a driver's license plate that denotes a drunk driving offense is clearly intended to serve as a badge of shame.

Many of our readers might reasonably suggest to Colorado legislators and law enforcers that a negative stigma affixed in the form of an identifying symbol on a vehicle is far from needed to punish a DUI offender.

Here's why: Even absent such a designation, Colorado's drunk driving penalties are already among the most stringent in the country.

Even a cursory look at a Colorado state website bears that out. It indicates that the costs linked with a DUI conviction for a first-time offender centrally include these mandatory and potential exactions:

  • Sharply spiked auto insurance rates
  • Significant jail time
  • Court costs and multiple related fees
  • Participation in alcohol and/or drug education classes
  • Ignition interlock installation and maintenance
  • License suspension or revocation

Is a negative mark on a license plate necessary as an addition to those already considerable penalties associated with a DUI conviction?

A number of respondents to the above-cited survey say that it is not and that it goes too far as a punitive device that simply seeks to brand select individuals in an adverse way.

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