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Understanding Minnesota Whiskey Plates

Did you know that getting a DWI in Minnesota can cost you your car’s license plates as well as your driver’s license?

If the police impound your license plates, you cannot drive unless you obtain a special registration plate, commonly called a “whiskey plate” in Minnesota.

Readily identifiable, Minnesota DUI license plates are white and start with the letter “W.” These conspicuous plates carry stigma you may prefer to avoid, if possible.

They also draw the scrutiny of law enforcement wherever you go. You must retain the plates for at least one year but possibly longer depending on your circumstances.

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Why You Get a Whiskey Plate in Minnesota

In Minnesota, you must get DUI license plates if the police impound your standard plates for any of the following reasons:

  • A DWI arrest with a DWI prior conviction or license revocation in the last ten years;
  • DWI arrest with two or more DWI convictions in the past (any period);
  • DWI arrest with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.16 or above;
  • Commercial DWI arrest (BAC of .04 or above) with a DWI prior conviction or license revocation in the last ten years;
  • DWI arrest with a minor child (under age 17) in the car; or
  • Driving on a license suspended or revoked for drunk driving.

Worse, the DWI license plate law applies to both the driver and the owner of the vehicle. This means that the police can impound your vehicle’s plates for a year or more, even if someone else got a DUI in your car.

What It Means to Have a Minnesota Whiskey Plate

Minnesota lawmakers believe that forcing repeat offenders to display MN whiskey plates raises law enforcement’s awareness of a driver’s past.

However, these plates also publicly broadcast sensitive information about your past. If friends or family members borrow your car, they too will face elevated scrutiny.

Law enforcement officers cannot legally stop your vehicle simply because you have a whiskey plate in MN.

Nevertheless, you will face constant scrutiny from the police, as officers may watch you more closely than other drivers, looking for justification to make a traffic stop. Officers need to have only a reasonable suspicion that you violated a traffic law to pull you over.

Worse, you must also pay the state a hefty fee to put the plates on your car and yet another fee to take them off.

When Should You Contact a Minnesota Criminal Defense Lawyer?

Once the police impound your regular plates, you must apply for whiskey plates if you hope to drive your car again. Fortunately, you do have an alternative: you can petition the court to have the impoundment order reversed.

Because you have limited time to challenge an impoundment order, contacting a criminal defense lawyer may be in your best interest. An experienced DWI lawyer understands the process and can protect your legal rights.

The Minnesota DWI attorneys at Arechigo & Stokka have more than two decades of experience. They can put that experience to work, helping you to fight a DWI. They can also help you avoid having to put Minnesota whiskey plates on your vehicle.

Call us today to schedule your free consultation.

Author Photo John T. Arechigo, Esq.

Attorney John Arechigo has a passion for criminal defense in St. Paul, MN. John received his J.D., from Hamline University School of Law and also carries a Bachelor of Arts from, The University of Minnesota. John was named Attorney of the Year for 2019 by Minnesota Lawyer. Additionally, John was also named as a 2019 Rising Star and was selected to Minnesota Super Lawyers in 2021. He devotes nearly 100% of his practice to defending individuals charged with a crime.

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