Plate impoundment: Understanding whiskey plates in Minnesota

Attorneys Jeffrey Sheridan and DeAnne Dulas stading up

The fines and penalties in the state of Minnesota associated with a DWI, or driving while impaired, are steep. Drivers convicted of DWI may receive jail time, loss of their drivers’ license, random alcohol testing, and ignition interlock sanctions.

Plate impoundment is also a potential penalty certain drivers convicted of DWI can face. Drivers’ license plates are seized and swapped with what are commonly referred to as whiskey plates.

But what are whiskey plates are why are they required?

Understanding whiskey plates

Whisky plates are essentially special types of vehicle registration plates. They are typically white license plates that contain black plate figures. All whiskey plate figures start with the letter “W.” They also contain an additional letter and 4 other numerals.

Typically, drivers are required to install whiskey plates for 1 year, although the timeframe could be longer depending on the circumstances. Such plates must be installed on every vehicle drivers own, co-own, or drive.

Types of DWI offenses requiring whiskey plates

The state of Minnesota requires whiskey plates for drivers convicted of certain DWI offenses. Such offenses include but are not limited to:

  • DWI offenses with a driver BAC level of .16 or higher
  • DWI offenses committed within 10 years of another DWI
  • DWI offenses committed with persons under the age of 16 found present in the vehicle at the time of the stop with the offender at least 36 months older than the minor

Certain drivers who wouldn’t typically receive a plate impoundment penalty may face one if they simply refuse a BAC test when pulled over.

Reasons behind the initiative

A big reason behind such special plates is to allow law enforcement to easily identify a driver on the road. Police officers typically give heightened scrutiny to cars with whiskey plates. However, contrary to popular belief, police cannot pull drivers over for simply having these special plates on their vehicles. Other factors must be present to establish the necessary reasonable suspicion officers must find under the law before pulling drivers over.

Legal assistance

Drivers who are charged with a DWI and face plate impoundment may be able to appeal the penalty by requesting judicial review. Certain restrictions, however, will apply. Those interested should consult with a criminal defense attorney knowledgeable in Minnesota DWI laws and procedures to obtain further information.

Individuals who have recently been charged with DWI are also encouraged to consult with a lawyer. A criminal defense attorney knows the laws and can help mitigate any potential repercussions.

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