Drivers having their license revoked for a DUI or DWI is common across the country. But it is also possible for the courts in Minnesota to actually revoke license plates, meaning you have the humiliation and inconvenience of using ‘whiskey plates.’

But just what are they and what function do they serve. Here’s a look at everything you need to know about this motoring accessory that no driver wants

What are ‘whiskey plates’?

Minnesota Statutes require that those involved in certain DWI and DUI incidents obtain special registration plates, commonly called “whiskey plates.” The impoundment order applies to the alleged offender, as well as the owner of the vehicle if they are not the same, even if the owner is not found guilty of an offense.

What offenses result in a driving needing ‘whiskey plates’?

  • The commission of any DWI offense with a blood alcohol concentration of .16 or more, as measured by blood, urine, or breathalyzer
  • DWI or Test refusal within ten years of a preceding DWI/Test refusal offense
  • Committing a DWI offense or test refusal while a child under 16 years of age is present in the vehicle.
  • Committing a DWI after license revocation, cancellation, or suspension
  • Committing a DWI offense as a commercial driver with a BAC of .04 or above within ten years of a previous DWI conviction

What if you are driving someone else’s car?

There are occasions when the driver or owner of a car is forced to use ‘whiskey plates even if they have not been found guilty of a DUI offense. These are;

  • A family member or spouse is ordered to have ‘whiskey plates’, but the car is registered, at least partially, in someone else’s name.
  • The DUI arrest occurred in a car owned and licensed to somebody else.

What do they look like?

Whiskey plates are easy to recognize because they always begin with the letter “W”.  Usually 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.

Do you have to pay for them?

Yes. It costs $50 per vehicle to fit ‘whiskey plates.’

Do Police stop drivers with ‘whiskey plates’ more often than others?

Police officers used to have 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, meaning thousands of drivers were pulled over around bar time simply because an officer saw the big W on the license plate. However, the Minnesota Supreme Court later declared that officers must have “reasonable articulable basis” to stop a vehicle, even if they have a ‘whiskey plate.’

How long do drivers have to use ‘whiskey plates’ for?

You must keep your whiskey plates on your car for at least one year, meaning you cannot apply for new registration plates until at least one year from the date of the impoundment order.

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.