There's more to check when buying a used car than just how the vehicle drives.
If the vehicle has special registration license plates beginning with WX, WY, WV or XW, the previous owner may have had offenses for driving under the influence of alcohol.
For $50, plus any registration or filing fees that may be due, people whose regular license plates have been impounded can receive the special plates for limited work or school use of a vehicle.
The special plates also allow police officers to keep track of serious DUI offenders.
"It gives us a heads up to keep an extra eye on that car," said Brainerd Police Chief John Bolduc.
License plate impoundment has been part of Minnesota statutes since 1990. There are five aggravating factors that qualify for plate impoundment:
* Driving while impaired or license revocation for test failure or refusal; or a conforming ordinance from this state or a conforming statute or ordinance from another state that results in the revocation of a person's driver's license or driving privileges within 10 years of a qualified prior impaired driving incident.
* Commercial driver's license disqualification within 10 years of a qualified prior impaired driving incident.
* Having an alcohol concentration of 0.20 or more as measured at the time, or within two hours of the time, of the offense.
* Driving while impaired while having a child under the age of 16 in the vehicle if the child is more than 36 months younger than the offender.
* Driving without valid license by a person whose driver's license or driving privileges have been canceled.
"It's possible (to have license plates impounded) with one DUI if there are enough aggravating factors," said Capt. Kent O'Grady of the Brainerd State Patrol. "In most cases on the first offense they don't get their plates revoked. On the second offense they lose their plates, on the third offense they lose their car and the fourth offense is a felony."
The license plate impound period is at least one year, from the date of the incident and until the following registration renewal, the Minnesota Department of Public Safety reported, and there is an additional $50 reinstatement fee due when the impoundment period is over. Also, if the violator is the owner of the vehicle, his or her driving privileges must be reinstated before new plates may be purchased.
The plate impoundment statute affects the vehicle driven at the time of the qualifying incident and all vehicles owned, co-owned, registered or leased by the violator. If the owner of the vehicle is not present at the time of the qualifying incident, the owner may request an administrative review.
The Department of Public Safety also stated a registered owner may not sell or transfer a motor vehicle during the time its registration plates have been ordered impounded or during the time its registration plates bear a special series number, unless the sale is for a valid consideration and the buyer and seller are not related, do not reside in the same household and have not had, at any time, a significant relationship with one another. Gifts are not allowed.
As for the public display of the DUI plates, Rep. Dale Walz, R-Brainerd, said he doesn't feel that is an invasion of privacy.
"Someone driving drunk is going a long way to endanger our privacy," said Walz, who is also a Baxter police captain. "The alternative is don't have them put their car on the road."
"They relinquish that right when they act stupid," said Department of Public Safety communications director Kevin Smith.
DUI arrests and convictions are public information.
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