What does your license plate say about you?

Morgan Day

First DUI plates — now proposed green plates may adorn the bumpers of Ohio sex offenders

Green is the new pink.

According to The Associated Press, a 2005 bill that called for pink license plates for all sex offenders failed after Mary Kay Cosmetics and advocates for breast cancer research objected to the color.

Now, a new bill is being considered by the Ohio General Assembly that would require sex offenders who have used violence or preyed on minors to have bright green license plates on their vehicles.

The legislation stems from a three-year effort by friends and family of Kristen Jackson, 14, who was raped and killed in 2002 by a convicted sex offender in Wooster.

Individuals convicted of public exposure or consensual sex with a minor wouldn’t be subject to the law.

“There are some people on the bottom rungs of (sexual offenses) that have already paid their debt to society,” said Detective Carl Sweigert of the Kent State Police Department.

He said the proposed law would have its benefits and drawbacks.

“It could create a conflict with a member of (a sex offender’s) family who has to drive the car,” Sweigert said. “But it might help your child to stay away from a potentially dangerous car.”

Officer Alice Ickes of the Kent State Police Department agreed with Sweigert that the proposed law would not be a perfect solution.

“You know it’s so well-intended, but you can see so many things that can go wrong with it,” Ickes said. “I think of the way I see yellow plates for DUI offenders, and every time I see one, I’m reminded of the problem. So it does increase awareness, which is a good thing.”

She said the green plates may lead to vigilante behavior in communities where known predators live. Some sex offenders have been attacked for their crimes, and the green plates would make these people easier to target, she said.

If approved by the General Assembly and signed by Gov. Ted Strickland, Ohio will be the only state to take the plate approach. However, some states do require special notice on a sex offender’s driver’s license.

New Jersey lawmakers said they are considering a measure that prohibits released sex offenders from using the Internet, while Texas lawmakers are considering a bill that would add the death penalty for repeat sex offenses against victims under 14, AP reported.

Ickes said another drawback is that many people who are sexual predators don’t use their cars when committing sexual offenses. They often borrow someone else’s, put their own vehicle under a friend’s name or lease a vehicle, she said.

“I have no criticism of the people who proposed it, but if you step back and look at the bigger picture, it may not serve the purpose they hope,” Ickes said, adding that the bigger picture should be awareness of sexual offenders.

Colored Plates

DUI Plates

  • Put into effect Jan. 1, 2004
  • Commonly referred to as “party plates”
  • Technical term is “family plates”

Green Plates

  • Introduced at the end of February
  • Led by Sen. Kevin Coughlin and Rep. Michael DeBose
  • If the law is passed, Ohio will be the first to introduce plates for sex offenders
  • More than 15,000 registered sex offenders

No more pink?

  • Pink sex-offender plates proposed in 2005
  • Mary Kay Cosmetics and breast

    cancer research groups opposed the use of the color

Contact safety reporter Morgan Day at [email protected].