Restricted use plates, often referred to as “whiskey plates,” are a not-so-uncommon sight to see on Minnesota highways and streets. The plates start with the letter “W” to indicate the alcohol-related offense. As of June 2012, there were over 16,000 whiskey plates in circulation in the state of Minnesota.
In Minnesota, drivers with a valid driver’s license who have been convicted of a DWI and whose license plates have been impounded will be required to place special registration plates on any cars registered under their name.
Generally, these are all grounds for whiskey plates:
Two DWIs in a matter of ten years
Multiple DWIs over any length of time
A DWI when the driver’s blood alcohol content (BAC) was over 0.16
A DWI when a child under 16 was in the vehicle
Committing a DWI offense as a commercial driver with a BAC of .04 or above within ten years of a previous DWI conviction
A person who has a conviction for driving without a valid driver's license after having been cancelled as inimical to public safety
If the vehicle is a rental for less than 30 days or registered in a different state then the plates cannot be impounded. Also, if the vehicle is not registered to the driver, the registered owner can apply for the regular plates to be returned if the owner makes a sworn statement that he/she is the owner of the vehicle and the driver had a valid driver's license at the time the car was driven or that they reported the car stolen.
Drivers register for whiskey plates by filling out forms at their local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) location.
It costs $57 to get the plates on, and another $57 to get the plates off of your vehicle.
No, not just for your whiskey plates, a cop must have another reason. Although whiskey plates are intended to help officers spot drivers who have had multiple DWI convictions, in 2003 the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that it is unconstitutional for a law enforcement officer to stop a driver solely on this basis. However, officers can still pull drivers over as long as they have a legal basis for it, other than the driver’s license plates.
The most obvious consequence of having whiskey plates is that the plates make everyone aware of the DWI infractions the driver has incurred. The main purpose of the plates is to raise law enforcement awareness of drivers with a history of infractions.
Another consequence is that anyone else who drives the offender’s car will be subject to the plates. Even if the car is given to another family member or changes ownership, as long as it is registered under the name of the person who got the DWI, it will have to bear the whiskey plates until the allotted time is up. In fact under Minnesota law, one cannot avoid the whiskey plates by simply selling or trasferring the plates to a family or household member.
The law requires whiskey plates on a vehicle for a minimum of one year past the date of the offense or until the driver’s license is valid again.
Although a number of states have tried to pass legislation to require restricted use plates, currently Minnesota and Ohio are the only two states requiring them of offenders. In Ohio, restricted use plates are required of all DUI offenders. Oregon and Washington had programs requiring special license plates, but these programs stopped in 1994 and 1995.
If you’ve been ordered by a judge to put whiskey plates on your car, it is possible to challenge the requirement within a specific time frame after the impoundment has been ordered. Our office works with people who are facing DUI or DWI charges and license plate impoundment. Depending on the case, we are often successful at working with judges to lift these requirements. You only have 60 days after impoundment to request a driver's license hearing with the MN Department of Public Safety.
If a DWI arrest occurred in your car but you were not driving, you could still be ordered to have whiskey plates put on your car under certain circustances, so becareful who you let drive your car and make sure they have a valid driver's license and no history of DWIs. Another reason would be that your car is registered or partially registered under someone's name that got a DWI and needs whiskey plates.
To get started talking with an experienced DWI lawyer, contact our office to set up a free initial consultation.