It seems like we don't see as many of those white 'whiskey plates' on the road here in Minnesota anymore. It's not just your imagination, there are fewer of them out there. Here's why they're now less common.

Just what are 'whiskey plates?'

First off, I have to admit that I had no idea what 'whiskey plates' even were when I first moved to Minnesota over 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 told me what they were. You've likely seen them, 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.

Minnesota's Special Registration Plates (MN Dept of Public Safety)
Minnesota's Special Registration Plates (MN Dept Public Safety/Div. Vehicle Services)

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.

But those 'whiskey plates' were once thought to be going away

We'd heard a few years ago, in July of 2021, that might 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 in 2021 does provide an alternative to those infamous plates. But not entirely, though.

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KIMT said back then that the new 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 those familiar white plates WILL still be around in Minnesota.

But here's why you might still see 'whiskey plates' in Minnesota

According to Kans Law Firm, DWI and defense attorneys based in Minneapolis, "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 'whiskey plates' ARE still a part of Minnesota's DWI laws, but that's why you don't see them nearly as often as we once did across the Bold North.

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!

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