Vehicle and License Plate Sanctions for DUI/DWI

Vehicle and License Plate Sanctions for DUI/DWI

When a defendant is convicted of driving under the influence or driving while intoxicated, the defendant is usually subject to a license revocation or suspension, fines, and possible jail time. In addition, many states provide for penalties that affect the defendant’s vehicle and license plates.

In approximately half of the states, the license plates of a defendant convicted of drunk driving may be suspended and the driver’s registration may be revoked. Some states will allow defendants to have specially marked license plates. However, this practice has come under attack. For example, a New York court invalidated a condition of probation that required an individual to attach a fluorescent sign to his license plate that stated “CONVICTED DWI.”

Some states have also allowed for immobilizing a vehicle to prevent a convicted drunk driver from operating the vehicle. The immobilization is accomplished by using a wheel lock, often called a boot, or by placing a locking device on the vehicle’s steering wheel. Most states also have provisions allowing for overnight impoundment of an arrested drunk driver’s vehicle.

Approximately half of the states allow for forfeiture of vehicles when the vehicles are driven by individuals that have more than one drunk driving offense. Typically, the statutes provide that if a defendant is convicted of two or more offenses within a specified time period, the vehicle is subject to forfeiture. The forfeiture laws are effective but are rarely used due to practical difficulties, including problems that arise if the driver is not the owner of the vehicle, the expense, and the general reluctance to punish innocent family members for the drunk driver’s actions.

Copyright 2012 LexisNexis, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc.