Whiskey Plates After a DWI in Minnesota

One of the consequences of a DWI conviction in Minnesota is plate impoundment. The state of Minnesota has the authority to take license plates from drivers under certain circumstances. This process is known as “license plate impoundment.” Plate impoundment can result in difficulty and embarrassment for the impacted drivers. The license plates you receive in exchange for the impounded plates are known as “whiskey plates.” They got this unofficial moniker. They often begin with the letter “W,” and of course, because people received them for driving while impaired by alcohol.

Until the early 2000s, if your car was donning whiskey plates, police officers in Minnesota could stop your vehicle at any time and investigate based on the whiskey plates alone. Minnesota law still says that the police can stop any car displaying whiskey plates for no reason. In 2003, the Minnesota Supreme Court declared these traffic stops unconstitutional. Since then, for an officer to stop you, you must violate the law before him or her pulling you over. Of course, the police will likely be keeping an eye on any vehicle with whiskey plates. If you have them, be cautious driving near bar closing time. Regardless of when you are on the road, even small errors can be used as justification for a traffic stop. Just driving one mile per hour over the speed limit gives the police a valid reason to stop you.

Who is issued Whisky Plates?

Drivers who:

  • Have two DWI convictions within ten years
  • DWI test over 0.16
  • Received a DWI while operating their vehicle without a valid driver’s license
  • A minor under 16 was in your vehicle, and you were operating it while impaired

License plate impoundment typically happens quickly. The arresting officer, the judge, or the Department of Public Safety will issue an order on behalf of the Commissioner of Public Safety. At the same time, the officer will also give you a permit which will allow temporary licensing of the vehicle. The permit is valid for seven days if the car was registered in the name of the driver.  If it was registered in someone else’s name, the permit will last 45 days. Police officers often issue the impoundment orders, but they could also come from a judge or the Department of Public Safety.

Getting your new license plates

To get your new whiskey plates, you will have to go to your local license bureau where they will likely have them in stock. The special series plates cost about $100 per vehicle.  Every vehicle you own, lease, or have registered in your name, either alone or jointly (including motorcycles and off-road vehicles), will require whiskey plates. The license plate on the vehicle used in the commission of the crime will also be impounded. This is the case even if the driver does not own the vehicle. 

You will have to have the whiskey plates for one year past your next renewal period. So, if you just renewed your plates, you may have them on for nearly two years. Those plates must stay on the vehicle until the penalty period is up. Selling, or gifting the vehicle will not change plate status. If you were driving someone else’s vehicle, that vehicle and any that you own would be subject to plate impoundment.

A plate impoundment order can be reviewed

There things your attorney can do:

  • File a request for administrative review. This is free and can be done anytime while you have “whiskey” plates on your vehicle.
  • Request a judicial review of the plate seizures. This requires a civil filing fee (about $350) and has stricter time limits. The driver only has 60 days to file a petition requesting a judicial review of the impoundment order. In the petition asking for judicial review, you must explain specifically why the impoundment order should be reversed. Because this is a more difficult process, you will want it handled with experience and attention to detail.

Our attorneys at White & Associates can guide you through the process. Contact us today to find out how we can help you.

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