S. Halsey

You may have been driving behind a Minnesota-licensed vehicle and wondered why you see so many license plates that start with a “W” followed by another letter and 4 digits, such as WH0000.  These license plates starting with a “W” are commonly called “whiskey plates” and are issued to the owners of certain vehicles involved in DWI arrests.  

The owner of the vehicle applies for the special registration plates (whiskey plates) because the vehicle was the subject of license plate impoundment order.  Minnesota law provides for the impoundment of license plates for certain alcohol related violations such as:  (1) a DWI conviction, a test refusal conviction, or an implied consent revocation within 10 years of a qualifying prior incident; (2) a Commercial Driver’s License disqualification within 10 years of a qualifying prior incident; (3) a DWI conviction or implied consent revocation with an alcohol concentration of twice the legal limit or more; (4) a DWI conviction, test refusal conviction, or implied consent revocation involving a child in the vehicle; or (5) driving without a valid license by an offender whose driving privileges have been canceled and denied as inimical (hostile) to public safety.  

The whiskey plates may be available during the period of an impoundment order if:  

(1) the violator has a qualified licensed driver to drive them; 

(2) the violator or registered owner has a limited license, commonly called a “work permit:” 

(3) the registered owner is not the violator and the registered owner has a valid or limited driver’s license; 

(4) a member of the registered owner’s household has a valid driver’s license; or 

(5) the violator has been reissued a valid driver’s license.

Another term with which you may not be familiar is the “B-card,” but it doesn’t refer to the reverse side (B-side) of a 45 rpm record from the 1950’s.  You’d have to be over 55 to have even heard of the B-side.  A B-card is a restriction on a driver’s license that requires the holder to completely abstain from alcohol, even when not operating a motor vehicle.  After a driver has had his or her driver’s license cancelled as inimical to public safety following a history of DWI incidents, and the driver has completed “rehabilitation,” reinstatement of driving privileges is conditioned upon the total abstinence from alcohol or un-prescribed controlled substances.

Ignition interlock devices use advances in technology to keep intoxicated drivers off the road.  Drivers whose licenses have been revoked for certain DWI convictions have the opportunity to retain their driving privileges by contracting to have an ignition interlock device installed on their motor vehicle.  First-time alcohol offenders with an alcohol concentration of 0.16 or above and all second-time alcohol offenders have the option of regaining their driving privileges by participating in the Minnesota Ignition Interlock Device Program. Driver’s whose licenses are cancelled or denied as inimical to public safety are required to enroll in the Ignition Interlock Device Program for a period of three to six years in order to regain full driving privileges. More information is available at the Department of Public Safety website.  

Despite all of the advances in technology and law enforcement, Minnesota drivers continue to drink alcohol and then drive.  While the number of DWI-related deaths annually continues to fall, the anguish to victims of DWI drivers and their families continues unabated.  Avoid going to court and experiencing your own personal anguish as a DWI offender by exercising good judgment, using a sober driver or sober cab, and simply staying off the road if you’ve had too much to drink.

Submitted by Judge Steve Halsey, Wright County District Court, chambered in Buffalo.  Judge Halsey is the host of “The District Court Show” on local cable TV public access channels throughout the Tenth Judicial District.  Videos may be viewed at www.QCTV.org

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