As a DWI attorney in Minnesota for 17 years, when I first meet individuals charge with a DUI or DWI offense, it is a rather emotional situation for the prospective client. They are now under the stressful realization that they’ve been charged with a crime and are about to enter a legal maze full of potential pitfalls. This is where we help alleviate these stresses by making our clients knowledgeable about the process and how we can navigate and plan our strategy to ultimately receive an excellent outcome in their respective case.
One of the biggest concerns expressed by clients at these initial meetings is with regard to potential license plate impoundment or what I like sometimes refer to as the state’s “scarlet letter” on the driver charged with a certain level of DUI offense. It can be extremely frustrating for the family of a driver subject to such an order, because the plate impoundment order applies not only to the vehicle in which they were driving, but also any other vehicle registered in his or her name whether owned jointly or individually. Usually, the driver has an added sense of grief because now an innocent family member may be subject to driving their vehicle with license plates clearly branded as a “whiskey” or DWI plate. As this becomes more frequent, they also become more identifiable to other motorists on the roadway adding to the embarrassment one may feel.
In addition, since July 1st, 2011, the state has now broadened those that are subject to a plate impoundment by making it mandatory for the driver to surrender their license plates if their blood alcohol concentration is a .16 or more as opposed to the earlier .20 or more. This is required regardless of whether the driver has any prior DWI convictions on their record. The driver does have the opportunity to challenge the plate impoundment order and a few counties allow a temporary reinstatement of regular non-DWI plates while the driver is awaiting the outcome of their hearing.
Plate impoundment occurs in the following situations: one is charged with a DWI within 10 years of a prior DWI conviction or prior license revocation that was the result of a DWI conviction; the driver had a BAC of 0.16% or more; a child under the age of 16 was in the vehicle when the offense occurred; or the offense took place while the driver’s license was canceled for being inimical to public safety.
A plate impoundment order applies both to the motor vehicle involved in the DWI offense, and any motor vehicle registered, owned, or leased in the name of the DWI offender, whether solely or jointly owned. An arresting officer may issue a plate impoundment order, which is effective immediately, at the time of the arrest. The plates are then seized by the officer and a seven-day temporary vehicle permit is issued (or 45 days if the offender is not the vehicle’s owner).
A plate impoundment has a minimum term of 1 year, during which, the offender is prohibited to drive a motor vehicle unless the person driving has been re-licensed to drive, and coded plates are displayed on the vehicle. When acquiring or selling a vehicle during the plate impoundment period, the offender is subject to certain restrictions. A person may appeal to license plate impoundment administratively or judicially.
If you or someone you know has been charged with a DWI or DUI offense, it is imperative that they seek the immediate advice of an experienced Minnesota DUI Lawyer. The attorney will first need to review their respective case to see if the driver is subject to such a plate impoundment order and then be able to advise the client how to proceed in challenging the order.