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Bill in Minn. Legislature would replace many ‘whiskey plates’ for ignition devices

On Behalf of | Feb 19, 2021 | Criminal Defense

We’ve all seen them in and around Mankato: vehicles with license plates that start with a W. Commonly known as “whiskey plates,” most people know that they are part of a sentence for DWI. Maybe you or someone in your family is currently driving with these special plates.

Officially, having whiskey plates on your vehicle means it is easier for police to pull you over because the plates can be considered a factor when officers are building a “reasonable suspicion” the driver is committing a crime. But for many people, the real consequence is the shame of having to drive in public with plates that show everyone else that the driver has a DWI on their record.

A better alternative to whiskey plates?

Critics say that embarrassing people who have committed drinking and driving is not as effective at preventing a second offense as ignition interlocks. This device attaches to a vehicle’s ignition switch. Before starting the engine, the driver must blow into the device, which detects alcohol in the breath. If there is, the vehicle won’t start. Thus, at least in theory, it is much more difficult for someone with an ignition interlock device to drive under the influence.

Legislators seek more ignition interlocks, fewer plate punishments

This is the reasoning behind a bill in the Minnesota Legislature. It would make it easier for DWI offenders to qualify for an ignition interlock device instead of whiskey plates by removing certain current barriers, such as having to pass a written test. Supporters say that besides making it virtually impossible to re-offend during the sentence, ignition interlocks have better long-term effects than special plates. Statistics suggest that people who have had an ignition interlock in their vehicles and completed their sentence were 39 percent less likely to be convicted of DWI again.

Regardless of if this bill becomes law or not, this shows the difference a defense attorney can make in a DWI case. They know the options available in sentencing and can work to get you an outcome that gives you the least possible disruption to your life. And a skilled defense lawyer will identify possible problems in the prosecutor’s case, using them to fight for dropped charges or a not guilty verdict.