A number of American states require drivers to attach “whiskey plates” to their vehicles after a DUI or DWI conviction. Ohio became the first state to impose a rule like this in 1967.
Minnesota law has requirements relating to the use of whiskey plates after DWI convictions, but the rules in this state have recently changed. In July, the Minnesota Legislature approved a bill that would allow many drivers to remove the special plates from their vehicles.
So, what exactly are the rules around whiskey plates in Minnesota now, and what has changed?
What Are Whiskey Plates?
Whiskey plates are special license plates that some drivers with DWI convictions must attach to their vehicles. Also called special registration plates, they feature black or blue lettering with a white background. They always begin with the letter “W,” which is where the term “whiskey plates” came from.
Under the law before the recent legislative change, first-time DWI offenses usually didn’t leave drivers with whiskey plates. However, for certain categories of aggravated DWI offenses, such as driving with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.16 or higher, the plates automatically became necessary.
Critics have said whiskey plates serve no purpose other than “public shaming.” Proponents say the system gives police officers the chance to easily identify previous DWI offenders. However, law enforcement officials who see the plates are obliged to give the driver in question the same treatment as any other driver under the circumstances.
The Changed Rules Around Whiskey Plates in Minnesota
Following the passage of HF 63, motorists who previously had to display whiskey plates may remove them, if they satisfy two conditions.
Firstly, you need to pay a fee of $100 in respect of each vehicle with whiskey plates. If you have sold a vehicle with whiskey plates on it, you should contact your local DMV office to ensure the title has been appropriately changed. Otherwise, you could end up incurring another $100 fee unnecessarily.
Secondly, you must sign up for the ignition interlock program. This means you will have to arrange for an ignition interlock device (IID) to be installed in your vehicle through the DMV. This measure essentially aims to ensure that you’re sober every time you take to the road.
Are Whiskey Plates in Minnesota a Thing of the Past?
Whiskey plates will continue to play a part in Minnesota DWI law under some circumstances. If you decide not to participate in the ignition interlock program, or fail to complete the program, you will still have to use the special plates.
You can fail an ignition interlock program by testing positive for alcohol or violating other program rules twice or more. The decision as to whether a given situation amounts to a failure to complete the program rests with the Department of Public Safety.
If you currently have whiskey plates on your vehicle and want to remove them, you must first satisfy the requirements discussed above. You should also contact your local DMV office to confirm you’re entitled to drive without the plates.
Ignition Interlock Devices (IIDs)
These machines prevent you from starting your vehicle unless your breath is clear of alcohol. Devices also require rolling retests; this means they’ll tell you, while you’re driving, that you need to complete another test within five minutes. If you fail to do so, the machine may notify the authorities. Minnesota’s ignition interlock program has been in effect since 2011.
Many policy analysts claim the ignition interlock program is a fairer, more effective way of addressing the issue of drunk driving than whiskey plates. Instead of merely highlighting someone’s status as a past DWI offender, an ignition interlock device aims to directly prevent a driver from getting on the road while inebriated.
If you need help with a DWI issue in Minnesota, contact us today. We offer initial case evaluations for free.