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What does it take to 'earn' a 'whiskey' license plate?

Editor's note: The following is an "Ask a Trooper" column written by Sergeant Jesse Grabow of the Minnesota State Patrol.

Question: I am wondering about the "W" (whiskey) plates we see in Minnesota. What does it take to "earn" one? How long are they to be used? What are the fines and other penalties that accompany these types of plates?

Answer: I believe Minnesota started using "whiskey" or "special registration" plates back in the mid- to late 1990s. I think the first set was a "WX" followed by four numbers that has since cycled through many times over using a "W" followed by another letter, then four more numbers. Minnesota averages about 30,000 DWI arrests each year and one out of seven drivers had a DWI violation on their record. One in 17 has two or more and one in 37 has three or more. My understanding is this is to alert law enforcement and the public that either the person driving the vehicle or someone that had driven the vehicle was guilty of an "enhanced" DWI violation.

How does a person "earn" a set of these? A few ways from a DWI offense, including:

- A second DWI violation within 10 years.

- A DWI violation while having an alcohol concentration of twice the legal limit (.16 or more).

- A DWI violation while having a child under the age of 16 in the vehicle if the child is more than 36 months younger than the offender.

- A violation by a person whose driver's license or driving privileges have been canceled under Minnesota Statute section 171.04 , Canceled Inimical to Public Safety (Multiple DWI violations).

How long must these special registration plates be on the car?

- Special registration plates issued must be displayed for at least one year from the date of incident. In some cases, special registration plates must be displayed for much longer than one year (multiple DWI offenses and other driving without a license violations).

What are the fines and other penalties that accompany these special registration plates?

- A person that is guilty of a DWI offense that would require needing special registration would be a gross misdemeanor and punishable of up to a $3,000 fine and/or one year in jail.

If you have any questions concerning traffic related laws or issues in Minnesota send your questions to Trp. Jesse Grabow - Minnesota State Patrol at 1000 Highway 10 West, Detroit Lakes, MN 56501-2205. (You can follow him on Twitter @MSPPIO_NW or reach him at