The Minnesota law requiring special registration license plates (also known as Whiskey or WX plates) on vehicles involved in certain DWI offenses changed last year. This blog post will answer frequently asked questions about whiskey plates in Minnesota, including whether you will need whiskey plates following a new DWI charge and whether you still need them if they are on your car following a previous offense.
What did the law say before?
Minnesota law requires police officers to impound the license plates of vehicles involved in DWI offenses when someone has a “qualified prior impaired driving incident.” Once plates are impounded, the law used to require the vehicle owner to install Whiskey Plates for one year in order to drive. Qualified prior impaired driving incidents refer to any past DWI, driving while impaired, alcohol or controlled substance-related criminal vehicular operation or homicide, or similar offenses. License plates are also impounded under this law for a first-time DWI-type offense if the driver’s alcohol concentration is 0.16 or greater.
How did the law change?
The law still requires that plates be impounded for the offenses mentioned above, but now a person can get rid of these plates if they get Ignition Interlock installed in the vehicle.
Is there a “but?”
Yes. The above is true, but you may still need to obtain Whiskey Plates temporarily so that you can get the Ignition Interlock installed. Once you have Ignition Interlock, you will be eligible to purchase non-Whiskey Plates for the vehicle.
How does that work?
If your vehicle is impounded and does not have Ignition Interlock installed, you can avoid getting Whiskey Plates at all by having Ignition Interlock installed prior to going to the DMV. You may be able to achieve this by getting the Ignition Interlock service provider to install the device at the impound lot. Or, if you are able to have a temporary license (either because you are still within the 7-day period following an offense, or because you received temporary reinstatement of your license by the court), you can have the Ignition Interlock installed prior to the temporary license expiration.
How much do license plates cost?
The total cost for new non-Whiskey Plates is $100 (not including the fees for license reinstatement or Ignition Interlock). If the vehicle already has Ignition Interlock, the fee will be a one-time payment of $100 for new plates. If you do not have Ignition Interlock and need to get Whiskey Plates temporarily, the fee is $50 for the Whiskey Plates, and then a second charge of $50 to exchange the Whiskey Plates for non-Whiskey Plates. So, either way, the total price is $100.
If I don’t need Whiskey Plates, can I just keep my old plates?
No. The plates that were on the car at the time of the offense become invalid. Even if the police did not remove the plates, the plate number will be canceled and you cannot legally drive the car with those plates.
What if I own more than one vehicle?
When a person is charged with a qualified impaired driving offense, the plates of every vehicle listed in that person’s name may be impounded. This means that even if the police don’t remove the plates, the plates on the other cars will become invalid after the 45-day temporary permit expires. If additional cars are listed on the impound order, those cars will need to get new plates (but not Whiskey Plates), assuming the person enrolls in the Ignition Interlock program right away. Only the car used in the designated offense will need to have Ignition Interlock, unless you want to drive more than one vehicle.
What is the innocent-owner defense?
If someone else used your vehicle to commit an offense that results in plate impoundment, you may qualify for rescission of the impoundment order by proving that you are an “innocent owner.” The process for applying for such a rescission involves filing a request for administrative review of license impound order with the Department of Public Safety.
Who can I talk to for more information?
You can learn a lot from the Department of Public Safety (DPS) website. Ignition Interlock installation companies are also great sources of information about their products and how to arrange for installation.
But no source can replace the advice of an experienced attorney. If you have additional questions about Whiskey Plates, or if you need legal assistance for the underlying offense that caused the plate impoundment, the experienced DWI lawyers at Sieben Edmunds Miller are happy to answer any questions you may have and are available to represent you in your criminal case.