Minnesota state law requires individuals in violation for certain aggravated DWI or DUI offenses obtain and use a specific type of license plate commonly known as whiskey plates.  These plates are easily identifiable as they begin with the letter W.  If a driver owns or co-owns multiple vehicles, the driver must obtain whiskey plates on all vehicles that are driven during the impoundment period. Those who are required to obtain whiskey plates must keep and display them on the affected automobile for at least 1 year past the date of the offense or until the driver’s license becomes valid.  It is a misdemeanor for anyone to drive a vehicle subject to plate impoundment without displaying whiskey plates. In Minnesota, those arrested for a DWI offense aren’t the only ones who could be affected. The owner of the automobile that was driven at the time of the offense could be required to obtain whiskey plates as well. Many “innocent” owners can however, obtain an administrative rescission of plate impoundment by filing a request for administrative review. The request should be granted if the owner was not present in the vehicle at the time of the DWI offense and the alleged offender had a valid driver’s license at the time. However, if you were in the vehicle at the time of the offense, you may be required to maintain whiskey plates on your vehicle as well, for allowing the offender to operate a vehicle under the influence.


Not everybody arrested for a DWI offense must surrender their license plates and get whiskey plates.  Your plates may be impounded and you may have to get whiskey plates if certain factors like these apply:

  • You have a prior DWI conviction within the last 10 years;
  • You refused to take a breath test;
  • You had a blood alcohol content or BAC that was twice the legal limit or more within 2 hours of when you were stopped. This would mean your BAC was .16 or higher;
  • At the time of your arrest for the DWI offense a minor, below the age of 16 years was present in the automobile with you; or
  • You were stopped for the DUI or DWI offense after having your license revoked, suspended or otherwise canceled for considerations of public safety.


Can the police pull you over for having whiskey plates? The answer is no. In 2003, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that it is unconstitutional for police to pull you over simply because you have a whiskey plate. Officers can however, still pull drivers over as long as they have a basis for it, other than the whiskey plates.  While the presence of whiskey plates cannot legally serve as a reason to stop you, it certainly gives the police reason to scrutinize every move and decision made by drivers with whiskey plates, which could lead to even more stops, fines and even arrests.

Whether you’ve been arrested for a DWI, or you are the owner or co-owner of a vehicle involved in a DWI arrest, you should call an experienced attorney to assist you.  In many cases, owners or co-owners of vehicles may not have to have their plates impounded and dawn the dreaded whiskey plates.  For those arrested for a DWI offense, there may be a way to mitigate certain elements of your offense and avoid the whiskey plates.  Either way an attorney experienced in DWI defense is vital.  To speak with an experienced DWI lawyer, please contact our office to set up a free initial consultation at 651-462-0206.