Will Minnesota Outlaw Whiskey Plates This Year?
Over the past few years, there have been several proposals at the Legislature in St. Paul to reform or get rid of Minnesota's 'whiskey plates.' But what is the status of them this year?
Just what are 'whiskey plates?'
First, I'll admit, I had no idea what 'whiskey plates' were when I first moved to Minnesota nearly a decade ago. I'd lived behind the cheddar curtain over in Wisconsin my entire life, where there is no such thing as 'whiskey plates'. My wife first pointed one out to me and proceeded to tell me just what they were. They're the plain white license plates the state of Minnesota makes you put on your car if you get a DWI, right?
The state of Minnesota calls them 'special registration plates'
Technically, according to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety / Division of Vehicle Services, they're called 'special registration plates' and you have to put them on your vehicle if the state, in addition to convicting you of an enhanced DWI violation, also impounds your vehicle's regular license plates.
According to this Ask A Trooper column, they're commonly referred to as 'whiskey plates' because they start with the letter W. They were introduced in the mid-'90s as a way to let everyone else know-- including law enforcement officers-- that you (or whoever owns the car with the whisky plates on them) were convicted of driving drunk, the story says.
There was a plan to eliminate Minnesota's 'whiskey plates'
We'd heard two years ago how they might soon be going away here in the Land of 10,000 Lakes. Several sources (like this KIMT-TV story) said that the Minnesota Legislature passed a provision in 2021 that would replace 'whiskey plates' with an ignition interlock system for those convicted of a DWI violation. (According to the Minnesota Legislature website, it was part of HF63 which passed in late May of 2021.)
The Minnesota DPS/DVS says ignition interlock devices prevent a vehicle from starting if it detects a certain alcohol concentration level after the driver blows into the tube. They've actually been around in Minnesota since 2011. And the new law that was passed two years ago does make a replacement for the previous 'whiskey' plates. But not entirely, though.
KIMT says the current law does allow current and future 'whiskey plate' holders to get rid of those plates if they request to join the new interlock program. (And still pay an extra $100 for new license plates, of course.)
But here's why you'll still see 'whiskey plates' in Minnesota this year.
According to this KSTP-TV Legislative tracker, which keeps an eye on all the various bills making their way through the capitol, there is NO bill that even appears to address 'whiskey plates' (or getting rid of them) this session-- which is scheduled to end on May 22nd, 2023.
So, that means the current legislation passed in 2021 will likely stand again this year. And according to Kans Law Firm, DWI and defense attorneys based in Minneapolis, that means, "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," its website noted. So while they likely won't be seen as much, 'whiskey plates' are still a part of Minnesota's DWI laws.
Getting a DWI can be expensive, even before having to install a new ignition interlock system in your vehicle. It can deplete your bank account in a hurry, and make your insurance way more expensive too. Which could make it tough to afford that slick new sports car you've had your eye on. Speaking of sports cars, keep scrolling to see which iconic car made its debut the year you were born!