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A Scarlet, or Yellow, Letter for drunken drivers?

A new specialized license plate could be coming soon to Virginia.

Its focus group? Drunken drivers.

A newly proposed law would order Virginia drivers with three or more DUI convictions to sport bright yellow license plates with red characters – a “Scarlet Letter” of sorts for repeat offenders.

The bill, sponsored by Del. Lionel Spruill Sr., D-Chesapeake, would require offenders to purchase the plate for $500 and keep it on their vehicles for five years after retaining their driver’s licenses. According to the DMV, three drunken driving convictions in 10 years results in indefinite license revocation. Third-time offenders also face over $1000 in fines and mandatory jail time.

In an article from The Virginian-Pilot, opponents of the bill call the proposed law a violation of civil liberties, and claim that similar laws passed in other states failed to curb instances of drunken driving.

Others argue that the proposed law is too lenient, preferring harsher punishments such as specialized plates after a first DUI offense and vehicle repossession for second and third convictions.

Spruill stands by the measure, likening it to the public database that identifies repeat child molesters. He says the plates would warn other drivers of a potential danger on the road.

But critics – and drunks – should probably rest easy. A similar bill, proposed by Spruill last year, never made it past committee.

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