If you’ve spent much time driving in Minnesota, you may have noticed a few vehicles with plain white license plates with black or blue lettering, with the letter W always appearing first. These are often referred to as “whiskey plates.” Individuals who have been involved in certain DWI/DUI incidents in Minnesota are required to display these plates on their vehicles.

What Function Do Whiskey Plates Serve?

Some individuals believe that whiskey license plates are intended to humiliate convicted drunk drivers. That is not the case, however. The true function of whiskey license plates is to aid law enforcement.

When an officer sees whiskey license plates on a vehicle, it indicates that the driver has been previously arrested for DWI, and it is intended to heighten the officer’s awareness of the driver’s risky behavior.

The compulsory registration of whiskey license plates is known as “plate impoundment.”

Can law enforcement stop you at any time if you have whiskey plates?

In the past, officers were permitted to randomly pull over vehicles with a whiskey license plate. The Supreme Court of Minnesota has finally put an end to this. Today, police require probable cause to stop any vehicle, including those with whiskey license plates. Typically, if you have whiskey license plates, police officers will follow you for longer, waiting for you to commit a minor traffic violation that gives them probable cause to pull you over.

Which DWI Charges Result in Whiskey Plates?

First-time DWI offenders are typically exempt from registering for whiskey plates. Instead, whiskey license plates are reserved for drivers whose actions are deemed more serious or habitual.

  • Your blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) at the time of your arrest was 0.16 or higher (even if this is a first-time offense)
  • You have had a DWI or refused to submit to a blood, breath, or urine test within the past ten years. • You had a child under the age of 16 in your vehicle at the time of your DWI/DUI. • You received a DWI while driving while your license was suspended, canceled, or revoked.

If your vehicle has whiskey plates, can you drive another vehicle without them?

If you are required to obtain whiskey license plates, you must obtain them for every vehicle you own or plan to operate. Therefore, your spouse’s vehicle and your children’s vehicles will require whiskey plates, even though they did not receive a DWI. If you received a DWI while operating a friend’s or other non-owned vehicle, the owner of that vehicle will likely be required to obtain liquor plates.

How long do whiskey plates remain attached?

If whiskey plates are required in your situation, you must display them for one year plus any additional time you are without a valid license. If your license is able to remain valid because you are enrolled in an ignition interlock program, you will still be required to display whiskey plates for the first year of the program.

Receive Assistance Combating DWI/DUI Charges to Avoid Whiskey Plates

In Minnesota, you may be required to display whiskey plates if convicted of certain drunk driving offenses. You must fight the charges in order to avoid conviction and minimize other penalties, such as jail time, fines, and license suspension.

Ambrose Law’s DWI defense attorneys have helped hundreds of individuals in Minnesota fight their drunk driving charges. If you have been arrested, contact our Minneapolis firm at or online today for a free consultation.


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