Party/DUI/Yellow License Plates Meaning and Consequences

Feb 8, 2020 | drunk driving

[Updated Nov 2023]

Individuals convicted for a second drunken driving offense in Ohio may have to use restricted license plates on their vehicles. First introduced in 1967 and sometimes referred to as “party plates,” the highly visible yellow license plates with red lettering reflected a previously issued requirement only when a judge determined it necessary.

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Since the Buckeye State’s revisions of its drunken driving laws, however, the plates are now mandatory for certain offenses. Motorists convicted of operating a vehicle under the influence for a second or third time must use them. A judge may also order a first-time offender to use the bright yellow restricted license plates if his or her blood alcohol content test showed an amount more than twice the legal limit.

Are motorists stopped because of the plates?

The plates signal law enforcement officials that a motorist had an OVI/OWI conviction. As reported by WTMJ-TV News, patrol officers may see “about a dozen” restricted license plates during their shifts. Once alerted by a vehicle’s bright yellow license plate, an officer may decide to check on the motorist.

During the year 2018, more than 3,500 Ohio motorists had restricted license plates. Because they are easy to spot from a distance, some individuals may attempt to hide them by speeding or engaging in risky driving habits.

The plates have reportedly caused embarrassment because anyone can see them, including an individual’s neighbors, coworkers or boss. For many individuals, the easily observed awareness of their driving with “scarlet letter plates” has caused them a significant amount of shame.

Can a driver avoid the requirement to use the specialized license plates?

When a motorist faces an OVI charge, he or she may counter the allegations of impairment by attending a hearing. A prosecutor must provide evidence of an individual’s impairment level at the time of his or her arrest to make the charges stick. Individuals who successfully counter the allegations may receive a reduced punishment that does not include the specialized license plates.