You may have noticed somebody driving a vehicle that has a license plate that looks different than the typical Minnesota license plate. Rather than loons or some other outdoor scene, these plates are plain black-and-white and many times start with the letter W. You may wonder why they have these plates. The answer is that they likely have these special plates because their license plates were impounded by the police. License plates can get impounded for several reasons, these include; 1) getting two or more DWIs within 10 years of each other, 2) getting a DWI with an alcohol concentration of 0.16 or higher, 3) getting a DWI with a child under 16 in the car (if the child is more than 36 months younger than the driver), or 4) driving without a license if their license was canceled because of the number of DWIs they had.
When an individual is arrested and their vehicle is subject to a plate impoundment order, the police will seize the plates and the driver is then served with a notice of plate impoundment. This notice will state that the plates from the vehicle must be turned in or destroyed, and any vehicles registered to the driver (solely or jointly) must be turned in as well.
After the plates have been impounded, the driver has the ability to get special series plates, often known as “whiskey plates,” which cost $50. All other vehicles owned by the driver—either individually or jointly with someone else–must also get these special plates and all these vehicles will need these special plates for one year.
When a vehicle is subject to a plate impoundment order, you cannot transfer the title to someone else in order to avoid the W plates. As a matter fact, if you do want to sell the vehicle, it must be to a bona fide third-party and the purchaser must sign a statement saying that they are not a family or household member and that they are aware the vehicle has a plate impoundment order.
If a family member doesn’t want to drive a vehicle subject to the W plates, the only way to avoid it would be to sell the vehicle to a third-party and purchasing different vehicle and titling the vehicle in the family member’s name.
What if somebody uses my vehicle and the plates from my vehicle are impounded because of a DWI? If the owner of the vehicle was not the driver and was not in the car when the violation occurred, the owner of the vehicle may file a sworn statement stating (among other things) that they will were not in the vehicle when the incident occurred, and that the violator had a valid license when the incident occurred, the state will give the owner new regular plates at no charge.
One way that an individual can try and get rid of the “whiskey plates” before the required one year is to file what is called a petition for judicial review where the driver can challenge different aspects of the plate impoundment. This petition must be filed within 60 days from when they got notice of the plate impoundment. The petition has certain legal requirements and allows the driver to go to court to ask a judge to rescind the plate impoundment order. However, merely filing the petition does not stop the impoundment order from taking effect; a judge must still decide whether the order stands are not.
If you have any questions about license plate impoundment and how to maneuver the process, contact Brandt Criminal Defense at 763.421.6366 for a free consultation with one of our attorneys.