License Plate Impoundment: How Does it Work in Minnesota?
License plate impoundment can be confusing in Minnesota. Here is a quick guide you can use to determine if you or someone you know is in a situation where license plate impoundment might happen.
When can plate impoundment happen?
Under Minnesota law, the license plates of a vehicle may be impounded taken and destroyed) if a Gross Misdemeanor driving offense is committed. These offenses include:
1. A first-time DWI with a chemical test result is 0.20 or more;
2. A first-time DWI that occurs while there is a passenger in the car
who is under the age of 16;
3. Any DWI by an individual who has had a prior DWI in the last 10 years; or
4. Any person driving without a valid driver’s license because his or
her license had been revoked as inimical to public safety.
License plate impoundment applies to two types of vehicles:
1. Any vehicle used by an individual to commit an offense listed above; or
2. Any vehicle owned, registered or leased by someone committing any
offense listed above.
How does plate impoundment happen?
The Commissioner of Public Safety is the office that is authorized by state law to impound license plates in Minnesota. Usually, however, it is the arresting officer at the scene of a DUI that issues the impoundment order.
What can you do if plate impoundment happens?
When a vehicle’s plates are impounded but the owner of the vehicle was not the individual who committed the offense, the registered owner can sometimes have regular, new license plates issued for the vehicle. A Minnesota DUI lawyer can help walk a registered owner through the paperwork and legal procedure for doing this.
Sometimes, an officer impounds plates by mistake, or there may be a legal defense that applies to an impoundment action, even if the individual who committed the offense was the owner of the vehicle. A Minnesota DUI lawyer can request a review of the impoundment order and challenge the impoundment. The review of a license plate impoundment, like an Implied Consent Challenge, is a civil action and very specific rules govern the proceeding. For example, if a review is possible, it must be requested within 30 days of receipt of the impoundment order – no extensions are granted.
When license plate impoundment goes into effect, it lasts for one year. The arresting officer will issue a 7 day permit along with the license plate impoundment order, and after this permit expires, the vehicle will need special plates in order to be driven in the remainder of the one year period. These special plates are often referred to as “Whiskey Plates”, because of the letters that usually occur in the plate code – for example, “WX,” or “WY,” followed by a series of numbers. Due to a recent change in law, Minnesota Statute section 168.0422 now allows police officers who see vehicles being driven with these special plates to pull those vehicles over – without any other reason – to check to see if the driver is operating the vehicle lawfully and with a valid Minnesota Driver’s license.
How Does License Plate Impoundment End?
At the end of the one year period, if the driver has succeeded in getting his or her full driving privileges reinstated, he or she may apply for new regular license plates for any vehicle registered in his or her name, including a vehicle that had no plates or Whiskey plates for the last year.