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Friday, March 2nd, 2007

Sex offenders may get green plates

By Margie Wuebker
Mercer County Sheriff Jeff Grey looks through a stack of folders filled with pending bills regarding sex offenders and admits he is skeptical about the latest - a proposal that would require predators to have fluorescent green license plates on their vehicles.
Grey, who serves as chairman of the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Committee of the Buckeye State Sheriff's Association, is wading through "all the legalize" in order to prepare reports for an upcoming March 20 meeting.
"Fluorescent green license plates will certainly be discussed," he told The Daily Standard. "It should be an interesting discussion because of differing opinions."
A bill introduced Wednesday by a pair of northeast Ohio legislators, Democratic Rep. Michael DeBose and Republican Sen. Kevin Coughlin, would require all habitual and child-oriented sex offenders to display the easy-to-spot plates. The bill is the latest in a series of new laws Ohio has passed to crack down on sex crimes against children.
It is something no other state has tried, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, though some require a designation to appear on sex offenders' driver's license. An earlier Ohio proposal to require pink plates for sex offenders was unsuccessful.
Grey fears provisions in the new bill giving judges discretion in some cases to decide who merits green license plates and who does not will lead to inconsistencies from one county to another.
"Those who reoffend don't care about green license plates," Grey said. "The more laws we write, the more we push them underground."
There are convicted sex offenders who are working to get their lives back on track and following each court-mandated sanction to the letter. However, reoffenders are not so motivated, Grey added.
Christine Link, executive director American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio, criticized the proposed requirement as political grandstanding. She said it could leave children with the idea that anyone without one of the special plates was safe to approach.
But Coughlin said the plates would send parents and children an instant message to beware. Ohio already requires repeat drunken drivers to display bright yellow license plates.
Grey does not buy into that philosophy, pointing out "A bright yellow license plate does not keep offenders from climbing behind the wheel and driving. I personally think the same thing applies to fluorescent green plates and sex offenders."
Last year, the Legislature approved tougher mandatory minimum sentences for rapists whose victims are younger than 13, increased penalties for public indecency involving victims under 13, required photos to be displayed on a statewide sex offender registry and mandated those classified as sexually violent predators to wear tracking devices after serving their prison sentences.
- The Associated Press contributed to this story.
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