Minnesota and DWI Whiskey Plates

There are a lot of different license plate designs that you will see while cruising Minnesota’s roadways. You will see plates proudly displaying flags, a golf course and even wildlife. But there is one design that stands out not for its creativity, but for it’s simplicity. You may notice relatively plain white license plates only otherwise notable for the basic font used for the lettering. You would also note that these plates all begin with the letter “W”. It is this distinct coding that has earned them the nickname of “whiskey” plates and if you have had multiple DWI incidents, get caught driving on a cancelled license, are a first time offender who tests at least twice the legal limit or if you have a child under the age of 16 in the car, then you will soon become very familiar with them.

Why Do Some Drivers Receive Whiskey Plates?

While some drivers find whiskey plates embarrassing, they are not intended as a form of shame by the law. In reality, most drivers have no idea what those plates mean and the Minnesota government has no interest in shaming its citizens. However, what whiskey plates do is help law enforcement.

As Minnesota does not allow legal drunk driving checkpoints, law enforcement officials need other ways to identify potential drunk drivers. If you meet the criteria for impoundment, your license plates will be impounded and will need to be replaced with the dreaded whiskey plates. These special license plates inform law enforcement that you have met the criteria and that you are a higher risk for driving under the influence again.

Drivers with whiskey plates may find themselves followed by officers on roadways or pulled over more frequently, particularly during holidays when drunk driving rates are at their highest. Those with whiskey plates are considered to be at increased risk for driving under the influence. However, under current case law, displaying whiskey plates alone is not a basis for a proper stop of a vehicle. But you will certainly stand out to law enforcement while on the roadway.

How Long Do You Have to Display a Whiskey Plate?

Those who are ordered by the court to get whiskey plates must purchase them at their local motor vehicle office or by mail. In order to do so, they will also need a valid driver’s license or at least a limited license.

Once the plates have been obtained, most offenses will require the driver to display them for at least a year, and in some cases longer depending on the status of the driver’s license.

If you have whiskey plates, you are only allowed to drive a vehicle with whiskey plates. This means you cannot borrow vehicles from a friend or drive a spouse’s car. When registering for whiskey plates, you need to disclose all vehicles that you are likely to drive and get whiskey plates for each vehicle. If you purchase a new car, you are not allowed to operate it without first obtaining whiskey plates.

The Order for Plate Impoundment also applies to the vehicle used in the incident, regardless of whether the driver was the legal owner or not. However, in some circumstances the legal owner of the vehicle may not have to get the whiskey plates. An experienced attorney will know when the owner is entitled to keeping their regular Minnesota plates and how to ensure that the owner won’t have to display the Whiskey plates.

The Order also applies to every that the offender legally owns. This includes jointly owned vehicles. In other words, if the offender is co-titled on a vehicle that is driven by someone else, that vehicle must still display the Whiskey plates. This can be incredibly frustrating for family members who were not the offender.

Obviously, if you have been caught driving under the influence it is important that you fight it. Whiskey plates are embarrassing and a hassle to deal with overall. Not only might people notice that you have had at least one DWI, but you will also find yourself under more scrutiny by law enforcement. However, the only way to avoid whiskey plates is to challenge the impoundment in court. If you are facing charges that require whiskey plates, you must contact us right away. The criminal defense attorneys at Kinsella & Foley Defense know how much any DWI charge can negatively effect your life. Let us defend your present and future.