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What is a Whiskey Plate?

Thursday, 5. September 2013

CC image Wikipedia.orgMany people know that your can have your license revoked, but did you know that you can also have your license plates impounded in Minnesota? It’s true.

In fact, it happens more often than you might think. A driver can have their license plates revoked if one of the following conditions applies:

  • Two DWI convictions within a 10-year period;
  • Two license revocations within a 10-year period;
  • The driver blows a .20 or higher during their first DUI conviction; or
  • A minor under the age of 17 is in the vehicle during the DUI arrest.

What Does a Whiskey Plate Look Like?

Whiskey plates are easily identifiable because they always begin with the letter “W”.  Typically the plates will begin WR, WS, WT, WX, WY, or WZ. These letters let law enforcement officials know that the vehicle has been subjected to one or more DUI stops. That means cops will be looking for any reason to stop the vehicle if they think the driver might be drunk.

Before the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled the practice unconstitutional, police officers had the power to stop anyone with a Whiskey plate even if they hadn’t committed an infraction. Whiskey plates were seen as enough probable cause to stop a driver, so you can imagine how many drivers were pulled over around bar time simply because an officer saw the big W on the license plate. The Minnesota Supreme Court later declared that officers must have “reasonable articulable basis” to stop a vehicle, even if they have a Whiskey plate. That said, minor offenses that a cop might normally let slide, like traveling a few miles over the speed limit or failing to come to a complete stop, may be enough of a reason to stop your vehicle.

You might have thought that it was weird when we said, “the vehicle has been subjected to one or more DUI stops.” Why didn’t we just say the driver has at least one DUI? Because you can end up with Whiskey plates on your car even if you weren’t the driver. There are two main reasons why you could be forced to put Whiskey plates on your car if you didn’t get stopped for a DUI:

  • A family member or spouse is ordered to have Whiskey plates, and your car is registered, at least partially, in their name; or
  • The DUI arrest occurred in your car, although you weren’t the driver.

When can I get my regular plates back?

You’ll need to keep your Whiskey plates for at least one year. You cannot apply for new registration plates until at least one year from the date of the impoundment order.

Additionally, if the owner of the vehicle is the offender, the new registration plates will not be issued until that person has been issued a valid driver’s license by the state.

It costs $50 per vehicle to equip each car with Whiskey plates.

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Avery Appelman is a criminal defense lawyer and the founder of Appelman Law Firm. While his practice is primarily recognized for its work with DWI and related offenses, he has 16 years of experience working with clients on drug, assault, theft, traffic, criminal sexual conduct, and prostitution charges.

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