As we’ve profiled on the blog in the past, some DWI offenders in Minnesota have been required to get what are commonly referred to as “Whiskey Plates” after their conviction. Whiskey plates are specialized license plates that begin with the letter W and are available to drivers who have had their plates impounded following a DWI conviction with certain factors. They help law enforcement identify drivers who have been convicted of DWI in the past, but some argue that they aren’t all that effective at stopping drunk driving.
Because while there is a stigma attached to having a whiskey plate, having a plate in and of itself is not reasonable suspicion for a police officer to pull someone over and see if they are under the influence, and rightfully so as this would be a clear violation of a person’s 4th amendment protections. A police officer may follow a driver with a whiskey plate a little longer than normal to see if they commit a traffic violation, but having the plate is not reasonable suspicion to conduct a traffic stop. Some people believe that this may still allow certain offenders to drive under the influence if they choose.
New Bill Introduced
In an effort to help make the roads safer, lawmakers are trying to allow drivers to avoid applying for whiskey plates if they take another step to help avoid drunk driving. State Senator Ron Latz has introduced a bill that would allow DWI offenders to avoid whiskey plates if they install an ignition interlock device in their vehicle.
“We’re all better off if someone’s driving with ignition interlock and we’re all better off if someone has an alcohol problem is finding a way to deal with it effectively,” said Latz.
Latz went on to say that whiskey plates don’t do anything to stop the root issue, which is drunk driving.
“It adds bureaucracy, it adds administrative work, it adds cost to the system and there’s no evidence to suggest it does anything to protect the safety of the public to deter people from driving while impaired,” said Latz.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving and Minnesotans for Safe Driving support the bill.
It seems like the bill has some good roots, as it should help curb drunk driving and we certainly can’t go the other way and allow police to stop drivers simply because of the type of license plate they have. This seems like a win-win for drivers who want to continue driving following certain DWI convictions. We’ll keep an eye on the bill to see if it becomes law.