Editor’s note: Within each state, the laws governing license plates for
causes and organizations (specialty plates) are presented first: statute
followed by administrative rule or regulation, if any. Next the statute
governing personalized or “vanity” plates is given, again followed by any
regulation/rule. Occasionally the same statute controls both types of license
plate. For some states, brief introductions explain special circumstances. Any
relevant court rulings are noted. Updated June 2009.
Code of Alabama
Sect. 32-6-64. Design - Distinctive license plates - Duties of Department of
(b) Effective January 1, 1997, the sponsoring organization of any new or
reissued distinctive license plate that is not of a college or university or an
existing military category shall assure a minimum quantity of 250 registrations
in order for the proposed plate to qualify for production consideration by the
legislative oversight committee under the provisions of Section 32-6-67.
Sect. 32-6-67. Committee; implementation and administration of provisions
(a) There is created a legislative committee to oversee the
implementation and administration of this Article 2 [License Tags and
(b) The committee shall:
(3) Establish guidelines for the qualification of organizations which
may sponsor a new or continued issuance of a license plate category, or may
benefit from that issuance.
(4) Approve, disapprove, or indefinitely postpone, by a vote of two-thirds of
the members present at a committee meeting, a request for a new license plate
(d) The committee shall not consider for approval applications
from the following types of organizations:
colleges and universities.
(2) Private businesses, business
organizations, or commercial entities of any type.
and private schools K-12, junior colleges, and technical schools, exclusive of
the Helping Schools Tag as established in Sections 32-6-300 and
(4) Groups within high schools, junior colleges,
universities, and technical schools, such as band boosters, athletic boosters,
and the like.
(7) Religious organizations.
Groups that promote racial or social disharmony.
Code of Alabama
Sect. 32-6-150. Issuance
(a) Owners of motor vehicles,
motorcycles, and motor-driven cycles who are residents of Alabama, upon
application to the judge of probate or commissioner of licenses … shall be
issued personalized license tags or plates upon which…shall be inscribed special
letters, figures, numbers, or other marks, emblems, symbols, or badges of
distinction or personal prestige or a combination of these as are approved for
and assigned to the application by the Department of Revenue.
Alabama Administrative Code
810-5-1-.202. Personalized License Tags - Rejection of Objectionable Language
(1) WHEREAS, the Department of Revenue is authorized by statute to promulgate
rules and regulations relating to the use and operation of a private passenger
or pleasure motor vehicle before the owner thereof can obtain a personalized
license tag, the Department of Revenue shall determine whether or not to
manufacture and issue the license plate as applied for.
(2) IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED that no license plate be manufactured and issued
which contains objectionable language or symbols which are considered by the
Department of Revenue to be offensive to the peace and dignity of the State of
Organizations/entities must have legislative sponsorship and
authorization before a new distinctive license plate will be issued.
Sec. 28.10.181. Registration of unique and special vehicles and vehicles used
for special purposes.
(e) Vehicles owned by the state, municipalities, and
charitable organizations of the state. Every certificate of registration and
registration plate issued to the state, a municipality, or charitable
organization of the state is in effect until the vehicle for which the
registration certificate and plate were issued is no longer owned and operated
by the state, the municipality, or the charitable organization of the state or
until the department, in its discretion, declares its expiration … .
Registration plates issued under this subsection must be of a distinctive design
and numbering system. For the purposes of this subsection, "charitable
organization" means a nonprofit association, corporation, society, or other
entity organized, incorporated, or headquartered in the state for educational,
cultural, scientific, or other charitable purposes, as prescribed in regulations
of the department.
Sec. 28.10.181. Registration of unique and special vehicles and vehicles used
for special purposes.
(c) Special request plates. Upon application by the
owner of a passenger vehicle, motorcycle, noncommercial van or pick-up truck, or
motor home, the department shall design and issue registration plates containing
a series of not more than six letters or numbers or combination of letters and
numbers as requested by the owner. The department may, in its discretion,
disapprove the issuance of registration plates under this subsection when the
requested symbols are a duplication of an existing registration or when the
symbols are considered unacceptable by the department.
Alaska Administrative Code
13 AAC 70.170. Personalized registration plates for motor vehicles.
The department will issue personalized registration plates for a pickup truck,
van, motor home, passenger car, or motorcycle not used for commercial purposes.
(b) The department will not issue personalized registration plates displaying
(8) symbols in a combination which demeans any ethnic or racial group, carries a
prurient meaning, or which is otherwise vulgar or indecent; any combination
known by the department to be patently offensive to a person of ordinary
sensibilities will be considered vulgar or indecent or carrying a prurient
meaning; any combination known by the department to be patently offensive to any
racial or ethnic group will be considered demeaning to that group.
Arizona Revised Statutes
Sec. 28-2404. Special organization plates; state highway fund account;
definitionsB. The commission shall determine and inform the department whether
the requested special organization plate is authorized. The commission shall
authorize a special organization plate if the organization meets the following
A. An organization may submit a request to the department on a
form prescribed by the department for a special organization plate. In the
request the organization may propose suggested indicia for the special
organization plate that are indicative of the organization. If the department
determines the organization meets the requirements of an organization as defined
in this section, the department shall submit the request for a special
organization plate to the license plate commission established by section
1. The primary activity or interest of the
organization serves the community, contributes to the welfare of others and is
not offensive or discriminatory in its purpose, nature, activity or
2. The name of the organization or any part of the
organization's purpose does not promote any specific product or brand name that
is provided for sale.
3. The purpose of the organization does
not promote a specific religion, faith or antireligious belief.
Sec. 28-2406. Personalized special plates.
A. A person may
apply for personalized special plates for any vehicle the person owns or leases
or as a gift for the owner or lessee of a vehicle by indicating on the
application the letters, numbers or combination of letters and numbers requested
as a registration number. The department shall determine the number of positions
allowed on the personalized special plates. The personalized special plates
shall not conflict with existing plates and shall not duplicate registration
numbers. The department may refuse to issue or may suspend, cancel or revoke any
combination of letters or numbers or any combination of letters and numbers that
carries connotations that are offensive to good taste and decency, any
combination that is misleading or any combination that duplicates other
Ariz. Life Coalition, Inc. v. Stanton, No. CV-03-1691-PHX-PGR (U.S.
Arizona Life Coalition bought suit against the Arizona License
Plate Committee claiming they violated the ALC’s First Amendment rights after
the license plate committee denied the ALC’s application for a special “Choose
Life” license plate. The court ruled that ALC failed to show that their rights
were violated by the denial of their application. The court wrote:
“Due to the necessity of vehicle identification by state
authorities, speech on state-approved, state-issued license plates is
governmental in nature and constitutes a nonpublic forum from which access is
selective rather than general. Defendants' action was reasonable in light of the
purpose served by license plates, that is, the identification of a vehicle and
“Furthermore, Defendants' action did not result in viewpoint discrimination.
The Commission sought to avoid the appearance political favoritism in an
otherwise nonpublic forum and maintained state neutrality on the issue, giving
neither side a leg up in this hotly debated public question. On that basis,
Plaintiffs' claims that the Commission engaged in the use of unbridled
discretion and abuse of power, as well as the Commission's alleged equal
protection violations, must all fail. Since no constitutional violation exists,
this Court cannot find A.R.S. Sec. 28-2404 unconstitutional without proof of a
contrary legislative intent.”
Chapter 24. Special License Plate Act of 2005.
(a) Unless otherwise provided in this chapter, the Director of
the Department of Finance and Administration shall have the exclusive power to
design or approve the design used on a special license plate authorized under
Special Personalized Prestige License Plates.
Sec. 27-14-1104. Rules and regulations.
(a) The Director of
the Department of Finance and Administration is authorized to promulgate rules
and regulations regarding the maximum and minimum number of letters, numbers, or
symbols on special plates issued under this subchapter.
director may also promulgate such other rules and regulations as shall be deemed
necessary or desirable for effectively carrying out the intent and purposes of
this subchapter and the laws of this state relative to the regulation and
licensing of motor vehicles.
Cal. Veh. Code Sec. 5060. Application and issuance; Criteria; Design;
Revenues and costs; Annual accounting report
(a) An organization
may apply to the department for participation in a special interest license
plate program and the department shall issue special license plates for that
program if the issuance of those plates is required by this article, the
sponsoring organization complies with the requirements of this section, and the
organization meets all of the following criteria:
Qualifies for tax-exempt status under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue
Code and Section23701d of the Revenue and Taxation Code.
Submits a design of the organization's proposed special interest license plate
that, among other things, provides for the placement of the number and letter
characters in a manner that allows for law enforcement to readily identify those
Sec. 5105. Form, date, and contents of application; Allowable
(a) An applicant for issuance of environmental license
plates or renewal of such plates in the subsequent year pursuant to this article
shall file an application therefor in such form and by such date as the
department may require, indicating thereon the combination of letters or
numbers, or both, requested as a registration number. There shall be no
duplication of registration numbers, and the department may refuse to issue any
combination of letters or numbers, or both, that may carry connotations
offensive to good taste and decency or which would be misleading or a
duplication of license plates provided for in Article 8 (commencing with Section
5000) of Chapter 1 of Division 3.
Sec. 5103. "Environmental license plates"
plates," as used in this article, means license plates or permanent trailer
identification plates that have displayed upon them the registration number
assigned to the passenger vehicle, commercial motor vehicle, motorcycle,
trailer, or semitrailer for which a registration number was issued in a
combination of letters or numbers, or both, requested by the owner or lessee of
California Code of Regulations
Sec. 170.00. Information Required on a Special Interest/Environmental
License Plate Application.
(D) The department shall refuse any configuration
that may carry connotations offensive to good taste and decency, or which would
be misleading, based on criteria which includes, but is not limited to, the
1. The configuration has a sexual connotation or is a
term of lust or depravity.
2. The configuration is a vulgar
term; a term of contempt, prejudice, or hostility; an insulting or degrading
term; a racially degrading term; or an ethnically degrading
3. The configuration is a swear word or term considered
profane, obscene, or repulsive.
4. The configuration has a
negative connotation to a specific group.
5. The configuration
misrepresents a law enforcement entity.
6. The configuration has
been deleted from regular series license plates.
configuration is a foreign or slang word or term, or is a phonetic spelling or
mirror image of a word or term falling into the categories described in
subdivisions 1. through 6. above.
Women's Res. Network v. Gourley, 305 F. Supp. 2d 1145, 1147 (E.D.
The Women’s Resource Network brought suit against Steven Gourley,
the Director of the California Department of Motor Vehicles, after their
unsuccessful attempt to get the California Legislature to enact an enabling
statute permitting the California DMV to issue “Choose Life” license plates. The
WRN “was seeking to invalidate numerous specialized license plates mounted on
California motor vehicles. Plaintiffs contend these plates were issued through
an unconstitutional, standardless statutory scheme which gives the California
Legislature unbridled discretion to decide whether to authorize issuance of a
plate. Each challenged plate was specifically authorized by statute. Plaintiffs
seek to prevent Gourley from renewing license plates issued under the challenged
statutes and from issuing any new license plate authorized by the Legislature
under California Vehicle Code Sec. 5060. They also seek an order requiring
Gourley to recall all plates previously issued under the statutes.”
The court agreed with WRN in part. The court ruled that the statute as
proscribed at the time did give “California legislators unconstitutional,
unfettered discretion to deny a private nonprofit organization's request for an
enabling statute authorizing issuance of a plate. This aspect of the forum is
facially unconstitutional under the First Amendment because no standard governs
the decision [of] who may speak … . Therefore, the Director of the California
Department of Motor Vehicles is permanently enjoined from approving any new
special interest license plate under the scheme now prescribed in Sec. 5060 for
private non-profit organizations.”
The court did not agree when it came to previously issued plates. The court
found the speech on these plates was a mixture of private and government
speech and that the “WRN has not shown it has a ‘First Amendment right to
dictate or to contribute to the content of [this government] speech.’” (Editor's
note: The court in this case was quoting a previous case and added the [ ].)
Thus, this part of WRN’s suit was rejected.
42-3-207. Special plates - rules - new plates – retirement.
(2) Before a bill is introduced in the general assembly that contains, or any
bill is amended to contain, a provision that establishes a new category or type
of group special license plate, the person, group, or association proposing such
special license plate shall submit to the department a proposal for a group
special license plate and certify by March 1 of each year that at least three
thousand of such special plates are to be issued within one year after the
authorization of such plates.
(3) A group special license plate
shall not be issued to any business entity conducted for profit.
42-3-211. Issuance of personalized plates authorized.
applicant for issuance of personalized license plates or renewal of such plates
shall apply in such form and by such date as the department may require,
indicating thereon the combination of letters or numbers requested as a
registration number. There shall be no duplication of registration numbers, and
the department may refuse to issue any combination of letters or numbers that
carry connotations offensive to good taste and decency, are misleading, or
duplicate any other license plates provided for in this article.
Colorado Code of Regulations
1 CCR 204-14. LICENSE PLATES, INSPECTION, REGISTRATION, OWNERSHIP TAXES,
DEALERS, ENFORCEMENT AND HEARING PROCEDURES.
SPECIAL INTEREST LICENSE
1. Special Interest License Plates must
be designed within the formats established by the Department of
6. The Department of Revenue may deny any application
request which may carry connotations offensive to the average citizen or which
would be misleading.
Connecticut General Statutes
Sec. 14-19a. Regulations re issuance of special number plates to members of
qualifying organizations. Issuance and renewal of collegiate special number
plates. Discontinuance of special number plates.
Commissioner of Motor Vehicles shall adopt regulations in accordance with the
provisions of chapter 54 to establish (1) standards for the issuance of a
special certificate of registration and special number plates to a member of an
organization which qualifies for issuance, (2) qualifications of organizations
whose members wish to apply for such special registrations, (3) procedures for
application for such special registration, and (4) a fee for such special number
plates which shall cover at least the entire cost of making the plates and which
shall be in addition to the fee for registration of the motor vehicle. The
regulations shall provide that a labor union shall be a qualifying
Regulations of Connecticut State Agencies
Standards for the Issuance of Special Number Plates.
Criteria for qualification of an organization.
An organization to be
qualified shall submit proof acceptable to the commissioner that it meets the
(a) It is a non-profit organization as
demonstrated in its charter or by-laws and any Internal Revenue Service ruling,
copies of which may be required by the commissioner;
primary purpose of the organization is service to the community through a
specific program which has as its goal improvement in public health, education
or general welfare, and the organization is not limited to social activities.
Organizations of military service veterans, towns, municipal corporations,
organizations of police or firefighters, and similar public service
organizations, need not comply with this subsection;
legend of the organization and its emblem are not obscene, do not promote,
advertise or endorse a product, brand or service provided for sale, and do not
promote any specific religious belief. An organization, association or trade
group whose primary purpose is to advertise or promote commerce is not
(d) The legend of the organization and its emblem as
they appear on the special number plate does not infringe or otherwise violate a
trademark, trade name, service mark, copyright or other proprietary right or
property right, and the organization has the right to use the legend and emblem
Regulations of Connecticut State Agencies.
(h) "Vanity plate" means a number plate issued by the
commissioner in accordance with Connecticut General Statutes Section 14-49 (s),
Sec. 14-49. Fees for miscellaneous registration and other
(s) A fee of sixty-five dollars shall be charged in
addition to the regular fee prescribed for the registration of a motor
vehicle…in accordance with this section for a number plate or plates for such
vehicle bearing any combination of letters or numbers requested by the
registrant and which may be issued in the discretion of the commissioner, except
in any case in which the number plates bear the official call letters of an
amateur radio station.
21 Del. C. Sec. 2140. Special registration plates for members of nonprofit
(a) The owner of a motor vehicle described in
subsection (b) of this section who is a member of a nonprofit organization
considered eligible by the Division of Motor Vehicles may apply to the Division
for the assignment of a special registration plate for such
(i) The Division of Motor Vehicles may refuse to issue
special registration plates when it is deemed not in the best interest of the
21 Del. C. Sec. 2121. Number and registration plates; provision for the
issuance of special license plates to the owners of motor vehicles who operate
amateur radio stations; special vanity plates.
(h) This title
notwithstanding, the Department, upon written application, shall furnish to any
owner of a motor vehicle otherwise entitled to a license plate, who is a
resident of this State, a special vanity license plate for each motor vehicle
owned by such individual for which the required registration fee has been paid,
which plate shall have displayed thereon:
single letter or combination of letters or combination of letters and numerals,
not to exceed 7 in number. If the combination includes numerals, the numerals
shall be displayed to the right of all letters on the plate. A hyphen shall be
permitted and shall be counted as 1 letter. In its discretion, the Department
may refuse any combination of letters, or letters and numerals. The Department
may refuse 7 character combinations that do not allow adequate spacing between
letters and/or numbers.
District of Columbia
Code of D.C. Municipal Regulations.
18-433. ORGANIZATION TAGS
433.1 This Director may issue a tag
bearing markings related to an organization ("Organization Tag") only if the tag
has been established by the Council of the District of Columbia or approved by
the Director as provided in this section.
433.2 An organization
seeking the Director's approval of an organization tag must be a non-profit
corporation, as that term is defined in Sec. 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue
Code (46 U.S.C. Sec. 501(c)(3)), and must submit an application to the
433.5 The format of any organization tag design shall
be approved by the Director and shall not obscure any of the lettering or
numbering on the tag.
18-423. PERSONALIZED IDENTIFICATION TAGS.
423.13 The Director
shall reject any proposed tag content that conveys a message, or displays an
image, that is confusing or offensive to the general public.
423.14 For the purpose of Sec. 423.13, the director shall reject
any combination of letters or numbers that;
(a) Is vulgar, derogatory,
profane, scatological or obscene, with any connotation, in any language;
Connote, in any language, breast, genitalia, public area, or buttocks or relate
to sexual or eliminatory functions;
(c) Connote, in any language (i) the
illicit drug, narcotic, intoxicant, or related paraphernalia; (ii) the sale,
user, or purveyor of such a substance; or (iii) the physiological state produced
by such a substance;
(d) Refer, in any language, to a race, religion, color,
deity, ethnic heritage, gender, sexual orientation, disability status, or
(e) Suggest, in any language, a government or
(f) Suggest, in any language, a privilege not given by
law in this state; or
(g) Form, in any language, a slang term, abbreviation,
phonetic spelling or mirror image of a word described in this subsection.
Fla. Stat. Sec. 320.08053.(3) The department shall adopt rules providing
viewpoint-neutral specifications for the design of specialty license plates that
promote or enhance the readability of all specialty license plates and that
Sec. 320.08053. Requirements for requests to
establish specialty license plates.
(2) If the specialty license plate
requested by the organization is approved by law, the organization must submit
the proposed art design for the specialty license plate to the department, in a
medium prescribed by the department, as soon as practicable, but no later than
60 days after the act approving the specialty license plate becomes a law. If
the specialty license plate requested by the organization is not approved by the
Legislature, the application fee shall be refunded to the requesting
Sec. 320.0805. Personalized prestige license plates.
(4) The department is
authorized to reject requests deemed by it to be objectionable, and the
department is further authorized to recall, during a registration period, any
issued personalized license plate determined by it to be obscene or otherwise
Women's Emergency Network v. Bush, 323 F.3d 937, 940 (11th Cir.,
The Women’s Emergency Network appealed a district court’s dismissal of
its First Amendment claims against the State of Florida for lack of standing.
The group challenged Florida’s authorization of “Choose Life” specialty license
plates and the state’s directing of funds from their sale to groups providing
adoption services (“pursuant to Fla. Stat. Sec. 320.08058(30)”). “We agree with
the district court that [Women's Emergency Network] lack standing to bring their
constitutional challenges to the Florida statute, and we therefore affirm the
district court's opinions,” the 11th Circuit said.
Specialty and personalized plates
Code of Georgia
O.C.G.A. Sec. 40-2-60.1. Administrative process for additional special
license plates; legislative findings; rules and regulations; fees.
commissioner is authorized to adopt rules and regulations for the issuance of
special license plates for groups of individuals and vehicles …
(3) The rules
and regulations may provide for exceptions whereby a special plate will not be
issued if the issuance of the plate would adversely affect public safety …
O.C.G.A. Sec. 40-2-60. Prestige license plates.
(d) The commissioner
is authorized to establish procedures and promulgate rules and regulations for
carrying out this Code section.
State of Georgia Department of Revenue Rules and Regulations
MOTOR VEHICLE UNIT.
ISSUANCE OF SPECIAL PRESTIGE
560-10-22-.13 Issuance of Special License Plates Commemorating
Certain Organizations, Institutions, Associations or Groups.
(3) No special
license plate will be approved that adversely affects public safety. No special
license plate shall be approved by the commissioner which is determined to be
obscene, profane, or defamatory of a religious belief or being, race or ethnic
560-10-22-.02 Special Prestige License Plates.
(3) The Motor Vehicle
Division shall not issue a special prestige license plate which is considered to
be obscene according to current community standards, nor shall they issue a
special prestige license plate which defames a religious belief or being, race
or ethnic group. Special prestige license plates will not be issued using
profanity. The Motor Vehicle Division shall recall any special prestige license
plate which may be determined to be obscene, profane or defamatory of a
religious belief or being, race or ethnic group.
Hawaii does not have a statewide Department of Motor
Vehicles. Vehicle registration is handled by the individual county
Sec. 286-66 Director in charge
The director of civil defense shall be responsible for processing all
applications for the special license plates and shall make all necessary
arrangements for the purchase and issuance thereof.
Sec. 49-402C. Special license plate programs - Standardized plate
color and design.
(1) It is the intent of the legislature that special
license plates issued by the department be readily recognizable as plates from
the state of Idaho without losing the uniqueness for which the special plate was
designed and purchased.
(2) No special license plates and no special license
plate programs in existence on or before June 30, 1998, shall be affected by the
provisions of this section. On and after July 1, 1998, any new special license
plate program authorized or any redesign of an existing special license plate,
shall use the same red, white and blue background as the standard issue of
license plates described in section 49-443, Idaho Code, except
(a) The identification of county shall be
(b) The word "Idaho" shall appear on every
(c) The inscription "Scenic Idaho" may be omitted without
legislative consideration and approval; and
(d) No slogan shall
be used that infringes upon, dilutes or compromises, or could be perceived to
infringe upon, dilute or compromise, the trademarks of the state of Idaho,
including, but not limited to, "Idaho Potatoes(R)," "Grown in Idaho(R)," "Famous
Idaho Potatoes(R)" or "Famous Potatoes(R)."
Sec. 49-409. Personalized license plates
(1) Any person who
is the owner of a vehicle registered under section 49-402 or 49-434(1), Idaho
Code, may apply to the department for personalized license plates in lieu of
regular numbered plates … . The personalized license plates shall be of the same
color and design as other license plates, and shall consist of numbers or
letters, or any combination thereof, not exceeding seven (7) positions. No more
than one (1) particular combination of letters and numbers shall be in existence
at any one (1) time. The form for application of the plates will be as
prescribed by the director who, at his discretion, may refuse to issue the
Idaho Administrative Code
08. Acceptability of Plates Message.
Acceptability of the personalized license plate message and issuance, denial or
cancellation will be determined by the Department based on the following
criteria: Effective Date: (1-3-92)
b. The message, in any
language, may not carry a sexual connotation nor consist of a term that is
considered to be one of: obscenity; contempt; prejudice; hostility; insult;
racial degradation; ethnical degradation; profanity; or vulgarity as defined in
dictionaries of general use, including Webster's Unabridged Dictionary and the
Harper & Row New Dictionary of American Slang. Effective Date:
c. The criteria in Subsection 202.08.b. above is not to
be considered an exhaustive list. A compilation of offensive or obscene words,
terms or letter/number combinations gathered from the experience of Idaho and
other states may also be used as a guide. Effective Date:
e. Final determination regarding applications for
questionable messages or cancellation of issued plates will be made by the Motor
Vehicle Bureau. An applicant does, however, have a right to a hearing on the
Sec. 625 ILCS 5/3-600. Requirements for issuance of special plates
(a) The Secretary of State shall not issue a series of special
plates unless applications, as prescribed by the Secretary, have been received
for 10,000 plates of that series; except that the Secretary of State may
prescribe some other required number of applications if that number is
sufficient to pay for the total cost of designing, manufacturing and issuing the
special license plate.
(b) The Secretary of State, upon issuing
a new series of special license plates, shall notify all law enforcement
officials of the design, color and other special features of the special license
(c) This Section shall not apply to special
license plate categories in existence on the effective date of this amendatory
Act of 1990, or to the Secretary of State's discretion as established in Section
3-611 [625 ILCS 5/3-611].
Sec. 625 ILCS 5/3-405.2. Improper plates
The Secretary of State shall
refuse to issue any license plates bearing a combination of letters or numbers,
or both, which creates a potential duplication or, in the opinion of the
Secretary, (1) would substantially interfere with plate identification for law
enforcement purposes, (2) is misleading, or (3) creates a connotation that is
offensive to good taste and decency.
The Secretary may revoke any such plates issued previously.
Choose Life Illinois v. White, No.04-c-4316. Choose Life Illinois is a nonprofit corporation whose stated purpose is to promote and increase adoption in that state. Starting in the 2001-2002 legislative session, several bills were introduced on the organization's behalf for a specialty plate that included the message “Choose Life.” Because the Illinois General Assembly never took action on the requests, they were in effect denied. In June 2004, the organization filed a lawsuit alleging that the state’s refusal to act on its requests amounted to unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination.
A U.S. district court in Illinois ruled Jan. 19, 2007, that the messages on specialty license plates are privately crafted, privately funded and constitute private speech. When the government voluntarily provides a forum for private expression, in this case through the specialty-plate program, it may not discriminate against some speakers because of their viewpoint. The court said the “Choose Life” message certainly represents a pro-life viewpoint. “The state’s reason for denying the speech is because it is controversial," the court said. "However, because it is private speech, this reason will not survive strict scrutiny.” The court added: “When a group … has met the numerical and financial requirements of the specialty plate program to deny authorization of the Choose Life plates is to discriminate against those who hold a pro-life viewpoint. This is impermissible.”
The Illinois secretary of state was ordered to issue the “Choose Life” plate.
CHAPTER 25. SPECIAL GROUP RECOGNITION LICENSE PLATES.
Authorization of plate design and issuance
(a) The bureau shall
adopt rules under IC 4-22-2 establishing the requirements to qualify for
participation in the special group recognition license plate program.
Indiana Administrative Code
140 IAC 2-4-1 Statement of intent
Sec. 1. (a) The bureau of
motor vehicles will administer the issuance of special group license plates to
honor deserving organizations that have made significant civic, community, and
charitable contributions in Indiana or are descendants of native or pioneer
residents of Indiana under IC 9-13-2-170.
(b) The bureau of
motor vehicles may, in its discretion, limit the number of new special group
recognition plate types authorized in any one (1) year or years to regulate the
proliferation of special group recognition plate types…
140 IAC 2-4-2 Petition for special group status
Sec. 2. (a)
An organization wishing to participate in the special group recognition license
plate program must indicate to the bureau of motor vehicles its intent to be
included in the special group recognition license plate program by filing a
petition with the bureau of motor vehicles no later than March 31 of the
calendar year immediately preceding the calendar year the special group
recognition plates are to be issued.
(b) The organization must
include the following information with its petition for inclusion in the special
group recognition program:
(1) A description of the
organization, including the following
(A) The purpose of the
(B) The philosophy or
mission statement of the organization.
(C) The length of time the organization has been in
(D) The number of active
members in the organization.
organization's unique significance to the United States, Indiana, or the
(2) A statement of the group's objective in
obtaining a special group recognition license plate.
(3) A sworn statement
from an authorized officer of the organization which affirms that, to the best
knowledge of such officer, the organization does not discriminate on the basis
of age, race, color, religion, sex, national origin, or disability in
contravention of any federal, state, or local law, regulation, decree, or order
in the selection of its members, its civic activities, or its services provided
to the community it serves.
(4) A statement of the intended organizational
uses of the funds, if any, raised through the sale of the plate.
certified copy of the organization's charter or articles of
(6) A color drawing of the preliminary plate design.
statement describing the active membership of the organization who would be
eligible for the special group recognition plate.
(8) Written documentation
evidencing that the organization is not-for-profit in the manner provided in
section 6 of this rule (140 IAC 2-4-6).
(9) Such other documentation or other
information that the bureau of motor vehicles deems necessary to determine
whether the organization qualifies for special group recognition status.
No petition will be considered until all of the information in this
subsection is filed with the bureau of motor vehicles. The bureau of motor
vehicles will notify the organization no later than May 1 of the calendar year
in which the petition is filed whether the petition has been approved or not
Sec. 9-18-15-4. Contents of application - Certain
(a) A person who applies
(1) A personalized license plate; or
The renewal of a personalized license plate in the subsequent
must file an application in the manner the bureau requires,
indicating the combination of letters or numerals, or both, requested as a
(b) The bureau may refuse to issue a combination of
letters or numerals, or both, that:
(1) Carries a connotation
offensive to good taste and decency; or
(2) Would be
(There is no statute or administrative rule spelling out what is
inappropriate, but the Indiana BMV Web site provides the following list.)
Your PLP request is considered unacceptable if it is:
1. Offensive or has
an explicit sexual connotation
2. Defined in academically accepted
dictionaries including, but not limited to, Webster's Unabridged Dictionary and
the Dictionary of American Slang as being:
A. A vulgar term
B. A term of
contempt, prejudice, or hostility
C. An insulting or degrading term
racially degrading term
E. An ethnically degrading term
F. An alcohol
related term, including specific alcohol drink names and brands
G. A drug
3. A term recognized as a swear word or considered profane,
obscene or repulsive; or incites lust or depravity
321.34 Plates or validation sticker furnished - retained by owner -
13. New special registration plates - department
a. Any person may submit a request to the
department to recommend a new special registration plate with a processed
emblem. The request shall provide a proposed design for the processed emblem,
the purpose of the special registration plate with the processed emblem, any
eligibility requirements for purchase or receipt of the special registration
plate with the processed emblem, and evidence there is sufficient interest in
the special registration plate with the processed emblem to pay implementation
costs. The department shall consider the request and make a recommendation based
upon criteria established by the department which shall include consideration of
the information included in the request, the number of special registration
plates with processed emblems currently authorized, and any other relevant
Iowa Administrative Code
761-401.15(321) Processed emblem application and approval process.
401.15(3) The application shall be accompanied by:
a. A color copy of the
(2) The processed emblem shall not have any
sexual connotation, nor shall it be vulgar, prejudiced, hostile, insulting, or
racially or ethnically degrading.
Iowa CodeNo punctuation marks are allowed.
321.34 Plates or validation sticker furnished - retained
by owner - special plates.
5. Personalized registration
a. Upon application and the payment of
a fee of twenty-five dollars, the director may issue to the owner of a motor
vehicle registered in this state or a trailer or travel trailer registered in
this state, personalized registration plates marked with up to seven initials,
letters, or combination of numerals and letters requested by the owner … . The
fee for issuance of the personalized registration plates shall be in addition to
the regular annual registration fee.
Restrictions for personalized plates
from the Iowa Department of Transportation:
No denoting a government agency (i.e., DOT).
No display of characters which are sexual in connotation.
No characters suggesting profane, obscene or inflammatory words or phrases,
or those contrary to public policy.
No characters or words defined in dictionaries as a term of vulgarity,
contempt, prejudice, hostility, insult, or racial or ethnic degradation.
No characters considered to be offensive.
No characters that conflict with the regular license numbering system.
Any foreign word falling in any of these categories.
No duplicate combination of characters.
Organizations/entities must have legislative sponsorship and
authorization before a new distinctive license plate will be issued.
8-1,141. Distinctive license plates; procedure
for issuance; requirements; fees; deadlines; exceptions.
Any person or organization sponsoring any distinctive license plate authorized
by the legislature on and after July 1, 2004, shall submit to the division of
vehicles a nonrefundable amount not to exceed $10,000, to defray the division's
cost for developing such distinctive license plate.
8-132. License plates or decals to be furnished; time for new
license plates; personalized license plates, display and cost; rules and
(c) Two personalized license plates may be
issued to any owner or lessee … who makes proper application to the division of
vehicles not less than 60 days prior to such owner's or lessee's renewal of
registration date … . Unless the letters or numbers designated by the applicant
have been assigned to another vehicle of the same type registered in the same
county, or unless the letters or numbers designated by the applicant have a
profane, vulgar, lewd or indecent meaning or connotation, as determined by the
director of vehicles, the division shall assign such letters or numbers to the
applicant's vehicle, and the letters or numbers, or combination thereof, so
assigned shall be deemed the registration number of such vehicle.
Kentucky Revised Statutes
Sec. 186.189. Special license plates for special groups or special
(1) The Transportation Cabinet shall establish and may issue
a special license plate to be used for special groups or special purposes. The
cabinet may assign unique identifying letters and numbers to the special license
plate authorized by this section.
(2) An organization or group of
persons who want to apply for a special license plate shall comply with the
following conditions before being eligible to apply for a special license
(a) The organization or group shall be
(b) The organization or group shall be based,
headquartered, or have a chapter in Kentucky;
organization or group may, but shall not be restricted to, social, civic, or
(d) The name of the organization or
group shall not be the name of a special product or a brand
(e) The name of the organization or group shall not be
construed as promoting a product or brand name as determined by the
(f) The organization or group shall not be a political
(g) The organization or group shall not have been created
primarily to promote a specific political belief; and
organization or group shall not have as its primary purpose the promotion of any
specific religion, faith, or antireligion.
Sec. 186.174. Personalized license plates.
(3) A personalized
plate shall not be issued that would conflict with or duplicate the
alphabetical-numerical system used for regular license plates or any other
license plates issued in the Commonwealth, and shall not contain a combination
of more than six (6) letters of the alphabet and Arabic numerals, including
spaces. A personalized plate shall not be issued if, in the discretion of the
cabinet, it carries a letter or number combinations that carry connotations
offensive to good taste and decency …
Louisiana Revised Statutes
Sec. 47:463. Private passenger vehicles; amputee veterans exempted; church,
church school, and religious order vehicles.
(3) (a) The secretary of
the Department of Public Safety and Corrections shall issue license plates for
private passenger vehicles …
(b) No prestige
plate shall be established after January 1, 2002, until the department has
received a minimum of one thousand applications for such plate. In addition, the
secretary shall establish a prestige license plate for an organization, in
accordance with the provisions provided by law only when one of the following
conditions is met:
organization has prepaid to the secretary all the necessary fees required by law
for one thousand applications for the license
(ii) The organization
guarantees the secretary that if the license plate is established, at least one
thousand license plates will be purchased by the members of the organization or
citizens of Louisiana who have signed a list agreeing to purchase the license
Sec. 47:463.2. Special personalized prestige license plates for passenger
A. The commissioner shall establish and issue special
personalized prestige license plates. The commissioner shall establish and
promulgate rules and regulations for the procedures for application for and
issuance of such special license plates … . The commissioner shall not issue a
letter combination which might carry a connotation offensive to good taste and
Henderson v. Richard Stalder, Etc., 407 F.3d 351, 352 (5th Cir.
“This appeal concerns whether Louisiana's prestige license plate
program facially discriminates against pro-choice views in contravention of the
First Amendment. The program diverts excess charges over handling and ordinary
registration fees for the plates to organizations endorsed by the legislature.
Because of this feature of the program, we conclude that we lack jurisdiction
over the case because of the Tax Injunction Act, 28 U.S.C. Sec. 1341.” The lower
court ruling was vacated and the case was remanded with instructions to dismiss.
The lower court had previously ruled: “The State of Louisiana has created a
forum-prestige license plates for privately owned vehicles — that is only open
to those organizations the viewpoints of which the State approves. There is no
neutrality in the scheme as it stands now; by defendants' own description of the
scheme, an organization may only obtain a specialty plate if the Louisiana
legislature condones the message so as to adopt it. Thus, regardless of the type
of forum, it is presumptively unconstitutional.” Henderson v. Stalder,
265 F. Supp. 2d 699, 718 (E.D. La., 2003)
Maine Revised Statutes
Sec. 468. Specialty plate
The Secretary of State may not
issue a specialty license plate unless the specialty license plate is authorized
by the Legislature. For the purposes of this section, "specialty license plate"
means a specially designed registration plate that may be used in place of the
regular plate and registration for fundraising purposes.
5. DESIGN APPROVAL.
A sponsor must submit a proposed design for a specialty license plate for
approval or modification by the Secretary of State. The joint standing committee
of the Legislature having jurisdiction over transportation matters shall review
the final design for a specialty license plate prior to manufacture of the
Sec. 468-A. Recognition license plates
The Secretary of State
may not issue a recognition license plate unless the recognition license plate
is authorized by the Legislature. The Secretary of State shall administer a
recognition license plate in accordance with this section.
1. DEFINITION. "Recognition license plate" means a specially designed
registration plate that may be used in place of the regular plate and
registration for recognition purposes only and is not used for fundraising
6. DESIGN APPROVAL. A sponsor must submit a
proposed design for a recognition license plate for approval or modification by
the Secretary of State. The joint standing committee of the Legislature having
jurisdiction over transportation matters shall review the final design for a
recognition license plate prior to the manufacture of the plate.
Sec. 453. Vanity registration plates.
3-A. RESTRICTIONS. The Secretary of
State, in the Secretary of State's discretion, may refuse to issue a vanity
A. Consists of or comprises
language that is obscene, contemptuous,
B. Promotes abusive or unlawful
C. Falsely suggests an association
with public institutions; or
Code of Maryland
Sec. 13-619. Special registration plates for members of certain
(c) Nonprofit organization. — The Administration may
issue and continue a special registration number under this section if:
At least 25 owners of vehicles in a class apply to the Administration for the
assignment of special registration numbers, and at least 25 special registration
numbers are issued initially;
(d) Regulations. — The Administration shall
adopt regulations not inconsistent with the Maryland Vehicle Law to govern the
issuance of special registration plates to members of nonprofit organizations
under this section.
(g) Contents of special registration plates.
(1) The special registration plates or plate issued under this
section may consist of:
(i) 1. Any
combination of letters, numerals, or both;
2. The name,
initials, or abbreviation of the name of the organization;
(ii) 1. Any combination of letters,
name, initials, or abbreviation of the name of the organization;
3. An emblem
or logo as authorized by the Administration that depicts the organization.
Sec. 13-613. Personalized registration plates for Class A (passenger), Class
D (motorcycle), Class E (truck), Class G (nonfreight trailer), Class L
(historic), Class M (multipurpose) and Class N (street rod) vehicles.
Assignment of special number. —
(2) In its
discretion, the Administration may refuse any combination of letters and
Annotated Laws of Massachusetts
Sec. 2F. Design, Issue and Regulation of Distinctive Registration
(a) The registrar shall design, issue and regulate the
use of distinctive registration plates, subject to the following conditions … .
Upon the completion of the submission of the bond and the 1,500 individual
applications, the organization or group requesting the distinctive registration
plate shall submit a proposed design for the plate. The registrar shall approve
the design within 90 days of its submission. After the registrar grants approval
of the design, the registrar shall send the distinctive registration plate into
Sec. 2. Registration of Motor Vehicles and Trailers; Reciprocal Agreements
With Other States; Transfer of Vehicles; Special License Plates.
The registrar may also … furnish to owners of private passenger motor
vehicles special number plates of distinctive types, to be known as distinctive
initial plates, which may contain a register number consisting of a group of
letters or a combination of numbers and letters; provided, however, that such
group or combination shall not consist of more than six letters or numbers or
combination thereof; and provided further, that there shall be no duplication of
identification. The registrar may determine such standards and qualifications
for the issuance of said plates as he deems proper.
(There is no statute or rule/regulation spelling out what is improper, but
the application for distinctive initial plates (“Request for Vanity Plates,”
distributed by the state Registry of Motor Vehicles) lists the following
1. The Registrar will not knowingly issue a requested Vanity registration
plate containing a group of letters or combination of numbers and letters if the
plate is either offensive or duplicative of an existing registration.
Specifically, the Registrar will not issue a requested combination of letters
and numbers or letters alone if:
Such combination is vulgar in that it is in poor taste or is degrading or is
considered a profanity, including a swear or curse word, not usually displayed
in the community for general viewing
Such combination is derogatory in that it disparages or belittles someone or
Such combination is obscene in that it refers to a sexual body part, a term
for or most closely associated with a sex act, or the availability for sex
Such combination is an expression of contempt, ridicule, or superiority of a
race, religion, deity, ethnic heritage, gender, sexual orientation, or political
Such combination is an expression of “fighting words” designed to inflame
passions and possibly lead to a violent confrontation
Such combination would appear to duplicate a registration already
2. The Registrar may reject a requested combination for other reasons
if she reasonably determines that issuance of the requested combination would be
inappropriate as a state-issued registration plate.
3. It is irrelevant
whether offensive material is communicated when reading the vanity plate from
left-to-right or from right-to-left, when viewed through a rear view mirror, or
whether it is in a foreign language or in a code which only a small segment of
the community may be able to readily decipher.
4. The Registrar reserves the
right to recall a vanity plate that has been issued, even if such registration
and plate has been renewed. Once the Registrar becomes aware of the offensive
nature of a group of letters or combination of numbers and letters, or a plate
that appears to duplicate an existing registration, that is sufficient cause for
rejection or recall.
Sec. 257.803m. Special organization plates.
organization plates shall bear letters and numbers as the secretary of state
prescribes. Special organization plates may contain the symbol of the
organization to the left of the plate number. The secretary of state shall not
issue a letter combination or permit the use of a symbol which might carry a
connotation offensive to good taste and decency … . Special organization plates
shall not be a duplication of another registration plate.
order to qualify its members to receive special organization plates, an
organization shall meet all of the following criteria:
(a) Be a
nonprofit fraternal or public service organization.
(c) Have a
recognizable state, national, or international symbol or emblem of the
(e) Not practice or influence others to practice
any form of discrimination prohibited by the Elliott-Larsen civil rights
act, 1976 PA 453, MCL 37.2101 to 37.2804.
Sec. 257.803b. amended. Personalized registration plate; number;
use; letters and numbers; offensive connotation; material; duplication
prohibited; submission of application; payment, disposition, and use of service
fee; expiration date; letters and numbers given to different person in
subsequent year; other sequence of letters and numbers; temporary permit.
Sec. 803b. (1) [Effective Jan. 1, 2006]…Personalized plates
shall bear letters and numbers as the secretary of state prescribes. The
secretary of state shall not issue a letter combination which might carry a
connotation offensive to good taste and decency.
168.1293 Special license plates; authorization;
Subdivision 1. Definition. For purposes of this section and
section 168.1297, "special license plate" means a license plate that is
authorized by law to have wording and graphics that differ from a Minnesota
passenger vehicle license plate.
Subd. 3. Design; redesign. (a) If the
special license plate sought by the requester is approved by law, the requester
shall submit the proposed design for the plate to the department as soon as
practicable, but not later than 120 days after the effective date of the law
authorizing issuance of the plate. The department is responsible for selecting
the final design for the special license plate.
168.12 License plates.
Subd. 2a. Personalized plates; rules. (a) …In lieu
of the numbers assigned as provided in subdivision 1, personalized license
plates must have imprinted on them a series of not more than seven numbers and
letters in any combination. When an applicant has once obtained personalized
plates…The commissioner of public safety shall adopt rules in the manner
provided by chapter 14, regulating the issuance and transfer of personalized
license plates. No words or combination of letters placed on personalized
license plates may be used for commercial advertising, be of an obscene,
indecent, or immoral nature, or be of a nature that would offend public morals
or decency. The call signals or letters of a radio or television station are not
commercial advertising for the purposes of this subdivision.
Organizations or other entities must have legislative authorization before a
new distinctive license plate will be issued in accordance with Mississippi Code
Sec. 27-19-44. Special license tags or plates.
Sec. 27-19-48. Personalized license tag; additional fee.
(1) … No combination of letters or numbers which comprise words or
expressions that are considered obscene, slandering, insulting or vulgar in
ordinary usage shall be permitted, with the Chairman of the State Tax Commission
having the responsibility of making this determination.
CHAPTER 301. REGISTRATION AND LICENSING OF MOTOR VEHICLES.
ADDITIONAL SPECIAL LICENSE PLATES
Sec. 301.3150. Procedure for approval,
exceptions — transfer of moneys collected.
7. The department of
revenue shall submit for approval all applications for the development of
specialty plates to the joint committee on transportation oversight during a
regular session of the general assembly for approval.
8. If the
specialty license plate requested by an organization is approved by the joint
committee on transportation oversight, the organization shall submit the
proposed art design for the specialty license plate to the department as soon as
practicable, but no later than sixty days after the approval of the specialty
license plate. If the specialty license plate requested by the organization is
not approved by the joint committee on transportation oversight, ninety-seven
percent of the application fee shall be refunded to the requesting
Sec. 301.144. Personalized license plates, appearance, fees — new plates
every three years without charge — obscene or offensive plates prohibited —
amateur radio operators, plates, how marked — repossessed vehicles, placards —
retired U.S. military plates, how marked.
3. No personalized license
plates shall be issued containing any letters, numbers or combination of letters
and numbers which are obscene, profane, patently offensive or contemptuous of a
racial or ethnic group, or offensive to good taste or decency, or would present
an unreasonable danger to the health or safety of the applicant, of other users
of streets and highways, or of the public in any location where the vehicle with
such a plate may be found.
Missouri Code of State Regulations
10-23.185 Obscene License Plates
(1) Language or symbols
which are obscene or profane are not protected by the United States or Missouri
Constitution. The language or symbols shall not be allowed on any personalized
motor vehicle license plate issued under the provisions of section 301.144,
RSMo. In determining whether or not requests for personalized motor vehicle
license plates contain language or symbols which are obscene or profane, the
Department of Revenue will use the standards in section (2).
following terms, as used in this rule, shall be defined as
(A) Obscene — Language or symbols which
represent or describe ultimate excretory functions or sexual acts in a patently
offensive manner or make lewd reference to the male or female sexual organs and
appeal to the prurient interests of the average person applying contemporary
community standards (see Miller
v. California, 413 U.S. 15, 93 S.Ct. 2607 (1973)). Prurient interests,
as used in this definition, shall mean shameful or morbid interest in nudity,
sex or excretion that goes substantially beyond customary limits or candor in
description or representation of these matters (see Haldeman v. United
States, C.A. Kan., 340 F2d 59 (10th Cir., 1965));
(B) Profane — Language or symbols which are
irreverent or contemptuous of things regarded as sacred or that imply divine
condemnation (see Baker v. State, 16 Ariz. App. 463, 494 P2d, 68 (1972)
and Duncan v. United States, 48 F2d 128 (9th Cir., 1931)).
No motor vehicle license plate will be issued by the Department of Revenue if
the language or symbols on the plate are obscene or profane. In order to make
this determination, the Department of Revenue will look to the way the average
person applying contemporary community standards would view the license plate.
Factors which the Department of Revenue may consider in this regard include, but
are not limited to:
(A) An explanation by the registrant as to
why s/he chose particular language or symbols to be on his/her personalized
motor vehicle license plate;
(B) Complaints from the public
regarding a license plate with the same letters, numbers or symbols as that
requested or held by the registrant;
(C) Complaints from the
public regarding a license plate with similar letters, numbers or symbols as
that requested or held by the registrant;
definitions of the language or symbols requested by the registrant;
(E) Information from other states regarding motor vehicle
plates which have not been issued by them because they found them to be obscene
(4) The Department of Revenue shall recall any
personalized motor vehicle license plate which it has already issued if it
determines that a plate is obscene or profane.
AUTHORITY: section 301.144, RSMo (Cum. Supp. 1991).
61-3-475 Qualifications and approval of organization as
(1) To qualify as a sponsor of a generic specialty license
plate, an organization shall:
(e) submit to the department
proof that is acceptable to the department
(i) the organization is a
nonprofit organization as demonstrated in its charter or bylaws or by an
internal revenue service ruling. The department may request copies of an
internal revenue service ruling to verify an organization's nonprofit
(ii) the primary purpose of the
organization, except for an organization of military service veterans, is
service to the community through specific programs that promote improving public
health, education, or general welfare;
(iii) the organization's name, identifying phrase, or graphic that will be
placed on the generic specialty license plate does not:
connotations offensive to good taste and decency;
advertise, or endorse a product, brand, or service provided for
(C) infringe or otherwise violate a trademark, trade name,
service mark, copyright, or other proprietary or property right; or
obscure the generic specialty license plate letters or numbers that the
department assigns as provided in
(iv) the organization's
headquarters or base of operations is in this state or, if the organization is a
chapter or branch of an international, national, or regional organization, the
chapter or branch is in good standing and has authorization in writing from the
parent organization to use the name and graphic of the parent organization;
(v) the organization has an active
telephone number listed under its name in at least one published Montana
61-3-405 Application for personalized plates.
applicant for personalized license plates or renewal of such plates in
subsequent years pursuant to 61-3-401 through 61-3-406 shall file an application
therefor in the form and by the date the department requires, indicating thereon
the combination of letters or numbers, or both, requested as a registration
number. There shall be no duplication of registration numbers, and the
department may refuse to issue any combination of letters or numbers, or both,
that may carry connotations offensive to good taste and decency or which are
misleading or a duplication of license plates provided for elsewhere in this
Nebraska does not allow the issuance of specialty plates
to organizations. Several bills have come before the Legislature but none has
Sec. 60-311.11. Message plates; conditions.
(2) The following conditions
apply to all personalized message license plates:
(e) The characters in the
order used shall not express, connote, or imply any obscene or objectionable
words or abbreviations.
(3) The Department of Motor Vehicles shall have sole
authority to determine if the conditions prescribed in subsection (2) of this
section have been met.
Nevada law does not distinguish between specialty and
personalized license plates.
482.367004. Commission on Special License Plates: Creation; membership;
terms; vacancies; service without salary or compensation; administrative
5. The Commission shall approve or
(a) Applications for the design, preparation and
issuance of special license plates that are submitted to the Department pursuant
to subsection 1 of NRS 482.367002; and
(b) The issuance by the
Department of special license plates that have been designed and prepared
pursuant to NRS 482.367002.
In determining whether to approve such an application or
issuance, the Commission shall consider, without limitation, whether it would be
appropriate and feasible for the Department to, as applicable, design, prepare
or issue the particular special license plate.
482.3667. Preparation for issuance; procedures for application and
issuance; persons qualified for issuance; period of validity; renewal; priority;
powers and duties of Department.
5. The Department may limit by
regulation the number of letters and numbers used and prohibit the use of
inappropriate letters or combinations of letters and numbers.
Nevada Administrative Code
482.320 Nomenclature used.
6. No combination of letters, numbers or spaces
is allowed if it:
(a) Creates confusion with any
combination on other license plates.
contempt, ridicule or superiority
(c) Contains any connotation that is
sexual, vulgar, derogatory, profane or obscene.
Contains a direct or indirect reference to
(1) Drug or drug
(e) Makes a defamatory reference to a person
(f) Is determined by the department to be
The New Hampshire Special License Plate Program for
organizational license plates was repealed in 1996, effective 1999.
New Hampshire Revised Statutes
Sec. 261:89. Vanity Number Plates
The director is hereby
authorized to design and to issue, under such rules as he shall deem
appropriate, vanity number plates to be used on motor vehicles in lieu of other
number plates. Such number plates shall be of such design and shall bear such
letters or letters and numbers as the director shall prescribe, but there shall
be no duplication of identification …
New Hampshire Code of Administrative Rules
Department of Safety.
Saf-C 514.61 Vanity or Initial Registration Plate.
(c) A vanity or initial
registration plate shall:
(1) Not have the identical or
similar combination of characters as any other
(2) Not be capable of an obscene
(3) Not be ethnically, racially or which a
reasonable person would find offensive to good taste;
Not have more than 7 characters;
(5) Not have more than
one ampersand, numeral, plus sign, or minus sign in
(6) Not have any characters other than
ampersands, numerals, plus signs, minus signs, or letters;
(7) Not have only numerals or only numerals and ampersands, plus signs, or minus
(8) Not have characters or combinations of
characters which may cause difficulty of distinction or identification.
The director shall recall any vanity or initial registration plate that has been
issued which does not conform with the requirements of (c) above.
New Jersey Statutes
Sec. 39:3-27.36. Conditions for issuance
organization vehicle registration plates shall be issued subject to the
b. The representative shall, upon application on
behalf of any member, provide a copy of the charter of the organization to the
division which shall indicate the organization's lawful purpose and shall also
provide proof of its nonprofit status.
d. The representative
also shall submit to the division the name or initials the organization wishes
to be placed at the bottom of the plate and a logotype. The use and arrangement
of the name, initials, or logotype of the organization on the registration
plates shall be in the sole discretion of the director.
Sec. 39:3-27.37. Director as final authority
shall have the authority to make the final decision as to whether or not an
organization is approved for the issuance of special organization vehicle
registration plates to its members notwithstanding the organization's compliance
with section 2 of P.L.1987, c. 374 (C. 39:3-27.36).
New Jersey Administrative Code
SUBCHAPTER 39. Special Registration Plates for Non-Profit
Sec. 13:20-39.3 Qualifications for organization approval;
final decision; right to suspend approval
(a) An organization
seeking approval from the Division pursuant to this subchapter to have special
motor vehicle registration plates prepared for its members in good standing who
wish to apply for them shall:
3. Be a non-profit organization;
4. Receive written approval from the Director as qualifying for
special motor vehicle registration plates for its members in good standing who
apply for same.
(b) The Director shall render the
final decision as to whether or not an organization is approved for the issuance
of special motor vehicle registration plates for its members pursuant to this
subchapter in accordance with N.J.S.A. 39:3-27.37.
(c) The Director, in his or her discretion, may suspend approval of any
organization which had previously been granted permission to obtain special
motor vehicle registration plates on behalf of its members pursuant to this
subchapter in accordance with N.J.S.A. 39:3-27.38.
Sec. 13:20-39.8 Plate design
(a) An organization, through its
designated organization liaison, shall submit to the Division a special motor
vehicle registration plate prototype design which indicates the name or initials
that the organization wishes to appear at the bottom of the special motor
vehicle registration plate and the logotype, if any, that the organization
wishes to appear on the special motor vehicle registration
(b) The Director shall make the final determination
pursuant to this subchapter as to:
1. The use,
arrangement and size of an approved organization's name on the special motor
vehicle registration plates;
2. Any initials
that are to appear at the bottom of the special motor vehicle registration
3. The use, arrangement and size
of an approved organization's desired logotype on the special motor vehicle
(c) An approved organization will be
notified whether its plate design has been approved through a letter from the
Director to the organization liaison.
New Jersey Statutes
Sec. 39:3-33.3. Special identifying marks; issuance of plates
Director of the Division of Motor Vehicles is hereby authorized to issue, upon
application, registration plates of a particular identifying mark or marks to be
displayed as provided in section 39:3-33 of the Revised Statutes, composed of
such combination of letters and figures, in accordance with the identification
system as may be requested in such application provided that the particular
identifying mark so requested is not then issued to and held by some other
person or otherwise reserved by the director.
New Jersey Administrative Code
SUBCHAPTER 34. Identifying Marks.
The following words and terms, when used in this
Subchapter shall have the following meanings unless the context clearly
"Particular identifying mark or marks" mean motor vehicle license plates
having inscribed thereon motor vehicle registration numbers comprised of
combinations of letters or numbers, or both, requested by the registrants.
Sec. 13:20-34.3 Registration numbers excluded
following registration numbers shall be excluded from issuance as "particular
identifying marks" and, where so indicated, shall be used for the purpose
35. Any combination of alphabetic characters or numbers, or
both, that may carry connotations offensive to good taste and decency.
Children First Found., Inc. v. Legreide, Civil Action # 04-2137(D.N.J.
In December 2003, the nonprofit organization Children First Foundation
applied for a New Jersey specialty license plate that included the words “Choose
Life.” The chief administrator of the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission at the
time, Diane Legreide, denied the application, claiming that the design included
an impermissible advocacy statement. CFF resubmitted its application, removed
the “Choose Life” message and, in its place, included its legally registered
name, NJCHOOSELIFE.ORG. This design was denied for the same reason. CFF filed
suit on May 4, 2004, claiming a violation of its First Amendment rights.
Legreide and other state officials filed a motion to dismiss the case or stay
the action. That motion was denied on March 31, 2005. Legreide requested a
reargument claiming the court was incorrect in dismissing its earlier motion.
The court granted the motion for a reargument but denied the request for a stay
in the action. On Nov. 17, 2005, the U.S. District Court for the state of New
Jersey heard the reargument requested by the New Jersey MVC. The court granted a
reconsideration of the March 31 decision and again denied a stay of the action
initiated by CCF and denied a request to have the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of
Appeals look at the case. The case is pending.
Statutes of New Mexico
Sec. 66-3-424. Standardized special registration plates with
A. Standardized special registration plates with logos may be
authorized by statute to show state support for worthy public purposes. The
authorizing statute shall provide for collection of fees that, at a minimum,
will cover the costs to the division of development, manufacture and issuance of
the special registration plates and logos.
C. Special registration logos,
except for the standard dimension specified in Paragraph (3) of Subsection B of
this section, shall be left to the design discretion of the division, in
consultation with the public purpose interest group that requests the special
Sec. 66-3-15. Special registration plates; procedures; fee
A. The division shall establish and issue special registration
plates, including motorcycle prestige registration plates and shall establish
and promulgate procedures for applications for and issuance of special
New Mexico Administrative Code
Sec. 184.108.40.206. PRESTIGE PLATES — CONTENT OF SET — REVIEW OF SET BY
A. Except as otherwise provided in 220.127.116.11 NMAC, a
set may be composed of any permissible characters in any order as long as the
set is consistent with the requirements of 18.104.22.168 NMAC. Prior to approval
for the establishment and issuance of the prestige plate, the division will
review the set.
B. No prestige plate will be established or
approved for issuance which displays a set that:
that of any existing registration plate or registration plate or set for which
an application is in process;
(2) the division finds to be
derogatory or obscene; or
(3) falsely states or implies that the
vehicle or the driver represents the authority of a governmental agency or
Currently there is a moratorium on issuing new custom
license plates for organizations. The New York Legislature is discussing a new
process. Formerly, such plates could be obtained in two ways: the sponsoring organization could seek approval
from the Legislature or the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles.
New York Consolidated Laws
NY CLS Vehicle & Traffic laws.
Sec. 404. Issuance of special
1. The commissioner may issue special number
plates to applicants therefor in the same manner as other number plates are
issued pursuant to this article … . Application for special number plates shall
be made in accordance with regulations promulgated by the commissioner with
respect to issuance of such number plates.
New York Codes, Rules and Regulations
PART 16. Special Number
Sec. 16.5 Restrictions
No plate shall be issued
under this Part which:
(e) is, in the discretion of
the commissioner, obscene, lewd, lascivious, derogatory to a particular ethnic
or other group, or patently offensive; or
lead one to believe that the owner of a particular vehicle is connected with or
operating in an official capacity for a governmental organization or
Children First Foundation v. Martinez, 05-0567-cv,
(2nd Cir. 2006)
In August 2004, the Children First Foundation filed a lawsuit
against Raymond P. Martinez and other New York state officials claiming
violations of its constitutional right based upon the denial of its application
for a custom license plate which included the words “Choose Life.” The
defendants, Martinez and the other New York state officials, filed a motion to
dismiss which was denied in January 2005. They then filed a motion to reconsider
which was denied in March 2005. The decisions were appealed to the 2nd
The defendants argued that denial of the plate was permissible under the
government-speech doctrine, which holds that the government has its own First
Amendment rights to advance its ideas and messages. They argued that New York’s
custom-plate program (since discontinued) was government speech, and that as
such the government could discriminate as to viewpoint. The 2nd Circuit
disagreed and held that custom license plates involved some private speech;
therefore, the government could not discriminate by viewpoint. The 2nd Circuit
denied the motion to dismiss on March 6, 2006.
Special organizations and causes must get approval
through the North Carolina Legislature before a special plate can be issued.
North Carolina General Statutes
Sec. 20-79.4. Special registration plates.
(32) Personalized. — Issuable to the registered owner of a motor vehicle. The
plate will bear the letters or letters and numbers requested by the owner. The
Division may refuse to issue a plate with a letter combination that is offensive
to good taste and decency. The Division may not issue a plate that duplicates
North Dakota Century Code
39-04-10.13. Public or nonprofit organization number
1. The director shall develop an organization number
plate program for distinctive number plates for qualifying public and for
nonprofit organizations recognized by the internal revenue service as tax exempt
under 26 U.S.C. 501(c)(3) … The organization may submit a design for the
distinctive number plate for approval by the director. Upon approval by the
director and proper application … the director shall include the number plate in
the organization number plate program.
2. The following
organizations do not qualify for an organization number plate: out-of-state
colleges and universities; groups within high schools, junior colleges,
universities, and technical schools, including individual boosters, athletic
boosters, and similar groups; unions; political organizations; religious
organizations; groups that promote racial or social disharmony; and public
39-04-10.3. Personalized plates.
The department may, in its discretion,
provide special license plates …
Sec. 4503.78. Implementation date for new special plates; reestablishment of
(A) Except as may otherwise be specifically
provided by law, after the effective date of this section, the registrar of
motor vehicles shall not be required to implement any legislation that creates a
license plate and provides for its issuance until the registrar receives written
statements from not less than one thousand persons, indicating that they intend
to apply for and obtain such license plates for their motor vehicles. The
registrar may require such statements to be made on a form the registrar
(The procedure for issuing a special plate in Ohio is not established by
statute. However, according to Ohio BMV officials, there is a set of criteria
which must be met:)
Before the Bureau of Motor Vehicles can create a special logo plate, an
organization would have to meet the following criterion: 1) The organization
must collect 1000 signatures on petitions from Ohio residents stating that they
will purchase the plate should one be created. The original petitions with the
signatures must be submitted to the BMV. 2) The agent for the organization must
contact a State Representative or Senator who is willing to sponsor a bill to be
introduced into the General Assembly for your plate. The bill must pass the
General Assembly and be signed by the Governor before we can manufacture the
plate. 3) The organization must also submit to the BMV an application, letter
authorizing the BMV to print the organization's logo, and an electronic file of
the artwork for the logo in a specified format.
(The standards for vanity plates are also not established by statute but
rather are the product of a settlement with the ACLU. A Special License Plate
Screening Committee meets to review and vote on proposed special license plates
using the following guidelines.)
Special License Plate Screening Guidelines. 1) If the requested license plate
contains words, combinations and/or phrases (in any language and when read
either frontward or backward) that are profane (that is, swearwords or
expletives), obscene, sexually explicit, or scatological: or 2) Contains words,
combinations, and/or phrases (in any language and when read either frontward or
backward) that are so offensive that they could reasonably be expected to
provoke a violent response from viewers without additional comment; or 3)
Contains words, combinations and/or phrases (in any language and when read
either frontward or backward) that advocate immediate lawlessness or advocate
NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio v. Taft, Case No. 1:05 CV 1064 (N.D. Ohio,
NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio and others filed suit against Ohio Gov. Bob Taft
and other state officials challenging an Ohio statute that made available
“Choose Life” license plates. The pro-choice group claimed the statute violated
the First and 14th amendments. The state officials filed a motion to dismiss the
case. “Defendants filed their Motion to Dismiss arguing that the Tax Injunction
Act, 28 U.S.C. Sec. 1341 (2000) ("the TIA"), divests this Court of subject
matter jurisdiction in this case because the charges for the "Choose Life"
plates constitute a tax, rather than a fee. The TIA prohibits a district court
from enjoining the assessment, levy or collection of any tax under State law
when State courts offer a ‘plain, speedy and efficient remedy.’ 28 U.S.C. Sec.
1341.” The court agreed with the State of Ohio defendants and dismissed the
Sec. 1135.7. Authorization to design and issue special license
A. Beginning January 1, 2006, the Oklahoma Tax
Commission is authorized to design and issue special license plates to any
person that applies to the Tax Commission for the creation of a special license
plate and meets the minimum standards and qualifications specified in this
B. If the following standards and guidelines are
satisfied, the Tax Commission shall issue a special license plate to the person
making application for the special license plate:
license plate is to:
membership in or affiliation with an organization,
b. demonstrate support for an
organization, group or cause;
2. The license plate does
not advertise or endorse a product, brand, or service that is provided for
3. The license plate does not promote any philosophy
based on prejudice or that is contrary to state civil rights laws;
4. Five hundred prepaid applications for the special
license plate are received by the Tax Commission.
H. As used in this section,
"person" includes an individual, group, organization or not-for-profit
corporation that is recognized as such by the Internal Revenue Service.
1135.5. Special license plates — Demonstration of support and financial
assistance to specific causes.
A. The Oklahoma Tax
Commission is hereby authorized to design and issue appropriate official special
license plates to persons wishing to demonstrate support and provide financial
assistance as provided by this section.
Sec. 1135.4. Personalized license plates
Oklahoma Tax Commission is hereby authorized to design and issue personalized
license plates. The personalized license plates shall be issued on a staggered
system except for vintage decals.
Oklahoma Administrative Code
710:60-3-150. Special license plates, general provisions
content policy. No special license plate will be issued which may be offensive
to the general public.
805.205. Issuance of special plates for certain groups; rules; surcharge;
disposition of moneys.
(1) The Department of Transportation by
rule shall provide for issuance of registration plates described in subsection
(3) of this section for nonprofit groups meeting the qualifications for tax
exempt status under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, for
institutions of higher education and for veterans' organizations … . Plates
issued under this section may not contain expressions of political opinion or
religious belief. Rules adopted under this section shall include, but need not
be limited to, rules that:
(a) Describe general qualifications to be met by
any group in order to be eligible for plates issued under this section.
Specify circumstances under which the department may cease to issue plates for
any particular group.
805.240. Customized plates; fee.
The Department of
Transportation is authorized to issue customized registration plates upon the
request of vehicle owners.
Oregon Administrative Rules
735-046-0010 Custom Plates — Application and Standards.
(7) DMV shall not
approve a custom plate choice, including plate choices that would do so by means
of foreign or slang words or phrases, by use of phonetic, numeric or reverse
spelling, or by being viewed in mirror image, that:
have the effect of alarming, threatening, offending or misleading a reasonable
person. Such choices may include, but are not limited to, combinations of
letters, numbers or both that:
(A) Refer to intimate
bodily parts or to sexual or excretory acts or
(B) Refer in an alarming or offensive
manner to a person or class of persons on the basis or race, color, gender,
ethnic heritage, national origin, or other
(C) Suggest that the vehicle to
which the custom plate is issued is an official vehicle of a public agency or
official, when it is in fact not such a vehicle;
(D) Refer to illegal acts.
(b) Refers to alcoholic beverages, or controlled substances or paraphernalia
used in the consumption thereof by combinations of letters, numbers or
(8) DMV may use any reliable lexicological source to determine the
meaning of any word, symbol or phrase.
(9) When reviewing a plate choice for
approval, DMV need not consider the applicant's subjective intent or declared
Specialty and personalized plates
Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes
Sec. 1341. Special registration plates generally
by the applicant, the department may issue registration plates consisting of any
combination of numbers, letters or numbers and letters. These special plates may
be issued for special groups or for special purposes and bear an appropriate
designation … . The department may refuse any combination of letters and numbers
for cause and shall adopt reasonable rules and regulations for the issuance of
the plates and for carrying out the provisions of this section.
Pennsylvania Administrative Code
67 Pa. Code Sec. 49.3. Personal registration plates
Limitations and content. Personal registration plates shall conform with the
(1) A personal registration plate may not contain a combination of
letters or numbers, or both, which, in the judgment of the Department, has
connotations offensive to good taste and decency or would be misleading. The
Department reserves the right to recall a personal registration plate which it
later determines to be offensive or misleading.
Organizations must go through the Legislature to get authorization for the
issuance of a new plate.
General Laws of Rhode Island
Sec. 31-3-17.1. Courtesy plates
The administrator of the
division of motor vehicles shall design and issue under regulations that he or
she deems appropriate special courtesy registration plates … in lieu of other
number plates. Special plates shall be of such design and shall bear such
letters or combinations of letters and numbers as the administrator of the
division of motor vehicles shall prescribe … and provided further, that there
shall be no duplication of identification and the administrator of the division
of motor vehicles shall in his or her discretion refuse to issue any letter or
combination of letters and numbers which might carry connotations offensive to
good taste and decency.
South Carolina Code of Laws
Sec. 56-3-8000. Non-profit organization license plates.
(H) The department
may alter, modify, or refuse to produce any special license plate that it deems
offensive or fails to meet community standards. If the department alters,
modifies, or refuses to produce a special license plate, the organization or
individual applying for the license plate may appeal the department's decision
to a special joint legislative committee.
Sec. 56-3-2010. Issuance of personalized license plates
(A) The department shall provide, upon proper
application being made, special personalized motor vehicle license plates to the
owner of a private passenger motor vehicle and motorcycles. The personalized
plates must be of the design and bear the letters and numerals the department
prescribes ... . The department, in its discretion, may refuse the issue of
letter combinations which may carry connotations offensive to good taste and
decency and may not assign to a person not holding the relevant office letters
or numerals denoting the holder to have a public office.
Planned Parenthood of S.C., Inc. v. Rose, 361 F.3d 786, 787 (4th Cir.,
“South Carolina has a statute that authorizes a specialty license plate
imprinted with the words ‘Choose Life.’ A comparable plate with a pro-choice
message is not available. Planned Parenthood of South Carolina, Inc. (PPSC) and
Renee Carter have sued three South Carolina officials on First Amendment
grounds, claiming that the statute authorizing the Choose Life plate amounts to
viewpoint discrimination by the State. The district court agreed and declared
the statute unconstitutional. We affirm in three opinions, with Judge Luttig and
Judge Gregory each writing separately to concur in the judgment.”
South Dakota Statutes
Sec. 32-5-137. Specialty plates — Organizational decals — Eligibility
To qualify for an organizational decal, an organization shall
be a nonprofit corporation, or a group of nonprofit corporations with a common
purpose, on file with the secretary of state's office and shall have a minimum
of two hundred members and shall meet the following
(1) The primary activity or interest of the
organization or group of organizations serves the community, contributes to the
welfare of others, and is not offensive or discriminatory in its purpose,
nature, activity, or name;
(2) The name and purpose of the
organization or group of organizations does not promote any specific product or
brand name that is provided for sale; and
(3) The decal of the
organization or group of organizations does not promote a specific religion,
faith, or anti-religious belief.
Sec. 32-5-89.2. Special personalized license plates — Connotations
offensive to good taste and decency may be rejected
Any owner of
a motor vehicle, including a motorcycle, who is a resident of this state, and
who has complied with all laws of this state in obtaining regular license plates
for a motor vehicle, including a motorcycle, may have the license plates
replaced by special personalized license plates which shall conform in size and
color combinations as may be provided by the secretary. No personalized license
plate for a motor vehicle other than a motorcycle may contain more than seven
letters nor less than two letters. No personalized license plate for a
motorcycle may contain more than six letters nor less than two letters. There
may be no duplication of the personalized license plates issued by the
secretary. The secretary may refuse to issue any letter combination which
carries connotations offensive to good taste and decency.
Specialty and personalized plates
Tennessee Code Annotated
PART 2. SPECIAL LICENSE PLATES
55-4-201. Issuance —
Applicability of part — Requirements — Plates deemed obsolete due to
(a) (1) All cultural, specialty earmarked and
new specialty earmarked motor vehicle registration plates, memorial motor
vehicle registration plates and special purpose motor vehicle registration
plates now, or in the future, shall be issued and renewed pursuant to the
provisions of this part.
(b) All plates issued pursuant
to this part shall be issued and renewed subject to the following:
A design which shall be approved by the commissioner.
55-4-210. Authorization; issuance.
(d) (1) The commissioner of
safety shall not issue any license plate commemorating any practice which is
contrary to the public policy of the State of Tennessee, nor shall the
commissioner issue any license plate to any entity whose goals and objectives
are contrary to the public policy of Tennessee.
commissioner shall refuse to issue any combination of letters, numbers or
positions that may carry connotations offensive to good taste and decency or
that are misleading.
ACLU of Tenn. v. Bredesen, 354 F. Supp. 2d 770, (M.D. Tenn.
The ACLU of Tennessee, et al., filed suit against Tennessee Gov. Phil
Bredesen and Tennessee Commissioner of Safety Fred Philips challenging the
constitutionality of the Tennessee statute that authorizes the issue of a
specialty license plate containing the words “Choose Life.” “Plaintiffs contend
that the statute (and, alternatively, the entire specialty license plate
program) infringes their First and Fourteenth Amendment rights through viewpoint
discrimination and the unfettered discretion given to the Tennessee General
The court found the statute unconstitutional because the State of Tennessee,
discriminated, through this statute, on the basis of viewpoint. The court
determined that messages placed on specialty plates are not government speech,
but a mixture of private and government speech; thus the state cannot
discriminate against a viewpoint. When the government speaks for itself and only
itself (i.e., government speech) it may discriminate on a viewpoint basis;
however, the court determined that when people choose to display the special
plates on their vehicles they are participating in private speech.
Tennessee v. Bredesen, No.04-6393, (6th Cir. 2006)
The 6th U.S.
Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the finding of the district court in the
earlier ACLU v. Bredesen case. The court, relying on a 2005 U.S. Supreme
Court case, Johanns
v. Livestock Marketing Association, 544 U.S. 550 (2005), found that the
“Choose Life” specialty license plate is a “government-crafted message” that
does not need to be viewpoint-neutral. In Johanns, the U.S. Supreme Court
concluded that when the government determines an overarching message and retains
the power to approve every word disseminated, the message is government speech.
Using this reasoning, the 6th Circuit found the “Choose Life” specialty plate to
constitute government speech; since the statute authorizing the creation of the
plate determines the overarching message and the Tennessee Department of Safety
has approval over every word on specialty plates. The court, again relying on
the Johanns case, also ruled that people who display the special plates
on their vehicles are private volunteers who are choosing to disseminate the
government's speech and that no special forum of speech is created that requires
Texas Statutes and Codes
Sec. 504.801. Creation of New Specialty License Plates by the
(a) The department may create new specialty
license plates on its own initiative or
on receipt of an application from a
(c) The department shall design each
new specialty license plate in consultation with the sponsor, if any, that
applied for creation of that specialty license plate. The department may refuse
to create a new specialty license plate if the design might be offensive to any
member of the public, if the nominated state agency does not consent to receipt
of the funds derived from issuance of the license plate, if the uses identified
for those funds might violate a statute or constitutional provision, or for any
other reason established by rule.
(i) The sponsor of a new
specialty plate may not be a for-profit enterprise.
Sec. 504.103. Design and Alphanumeric Pattern [Of Personalized
The department has sole control over the design,
typeface, color, and alphanumeric pattern for a personalized license plate.
Texas Administrative Code
Sec. 17.28. Specialty License Plates, Symbols,
Tabs, and Other Devices.
(C) Personalized plates not approved. A personalized
license plate number will not be approved by the director if the
(i) conflicts with the department's current or proposed
regular license plate numbering system;
determined to be obscene or objectionable by the director; or
(iii) is currently issued to another owner.
Sec. 41-1a-418. Authorized special group license plates.
(3) (a) A
sponsoring organization that qualifies for tax-exempt status under Internal
Revenue Code Section 501(c)(3) may request the commission to authorize a new
type of special group license plate for the sponsoring organization. The
sponsoring organization shall:
(i) collect a
minimum of 200 applications; and
(ii) pay a
start-up fee established under Section 63-38-3.2 …
(b) If the
provisions of Subsection (3)(a) are met, the commission shall approve the
request and the division shall:
(i) design a
license plate in accordance with Section 41-1a-419; and
Sec. 41-1a-419. Plate design — Vintage vehicle certification and
registration — Personalized special group license plates — Rulemaking
(1) (a) The design and maximum number of numerals or characters
on special group license plates shall be determined by the division in
accordance with the requirements under Subsection (1)(b).
Each special group license plate shall
(i) the word
(ii) the name or identifying slogan of
the special group;
(iii) a symbol decal not
exceeding two positions in size representing the special group;
(iv) the combination of letters, numbers,
or both uniquely identifying the registered vehicle.
(2) (a) The division
shall, after consultation with a representative designated by the special group,
specify the word or words comprising the special group name and the symbol decal
to be displayed upon the special group license plates.
Sec. 41-1a-411. Application for personalized plates — Refusal
(1) An applicant for personalized license plates or
renewal of the plates shall file an application for the plates in the form and
by the date the division requires, indicating the combination of letters,
numbers, or both requested as a registration number.
division may refuse to issue any combination of letters, numbers, or both that
may carry connotations offensive to good taste and decency or that would be
Utah Administrative Code
R873-22M-34. Rule for Denial of Personalized Plate Requests Pursuant to
Utah Code Ann. Sections 41-1a-104 and 41-1a-411.
personalized plate is a non-public forum. Nothing in the issuance of a
personalized plate creates a designated or limited public forum. The presence of
a personalized plate on a vehicle does not make the plate a traditional public
B. Pursuant to Section 41-1a-411(2), the division may not
issue personalized license plates in the following
1. Combination of letters, words, or
numbers with any connotation that is vulgar, derogatory, profane, or
2. Combinations of letters, words, or
numbers that connote breasts, genitalia, pubic area, buttocks, or relate to
sexual and eliminatory functions. Additionally, "69" formats are prohibited
unless used in a combination with the vehicle make, for example, "69
3. Combinations of letters, words, or numbers
that connote the substance, paraphernalia, sale, user, purveyor of, or
physiological state produced by any illicit drug, narcotic, or
4. Combinations of letters, words, or
numbers that express contempt, ridicule, or superiority of a race, religion,
deity, ethnic heritage, gender, or political affiliation.
director shall review the format for connotations that may reasonably be
detected through linguistic, numerical, or phonetic modes of communication. The
review may include:
1. translation from foreign
2. an upside down or reverse reading of
the requested format;
3. the use of references such
as dictionaries or glossaries of slang, foreign language, or drug
E. The director shall consider the applicant's declared
definition of the format, if provided.
Specialty and personalized plates
23 V.S.A. Sec. 304. Registration certificates; number plates.
(b) The authority to issue special motor vehicle number plates or receive
applications or petitions for special number plates for safety organizations and
service organizations shall reside with the commissioner. Determination of
compliance with the criteria contained in this subsection shall be within the
discretion of the commissioner … . The commissioner shall issue special number
plates marked with initials, letters or combination of numerals and letters, in
the following manner:
(C) After consulting with representatives of the safety
or service organization, the commissioner shall determine the design of the
special plates, on the basis that the primary purpose of motor vehicle number
plates is vehicle identification. An organization applying for a special plate
under this subsection shall present the commissioner with a name and emblem that
is not obscene, offensive or confusing to the general public and does not
promote, advertise or endorse a product, brand or service provided for sale, or
promote any specific religious belief or political party. The organization's
name and emblem must not infringe or violate trademarks, trade names, service
marks, copyrights or other proprietary or property rights and the organization
must have the right to use the name and emblem.
number plates whether new or renewed shall be issued in any combination or
succession of numerals and letters provided the total of the numbers and letters
on any plate taken together does not exceed seven, and further provided the
requested combination of letters and numerals does not duplicate or resemble a
regular issue registration plate. The commissioner may adopt rules for the
issuance of special number plates to ensure that all plates serve the primary
purpose of vehicle identification. The commissioner may revoke any plate
described in subdivisions (1) through (7) of this subsection and shall not issue
special number plates with the following combination of letters or
(1) Combinations of letters or numbers with any
connotation, in any language, that is vulgar, derogatory, profane, racial
epithets, scatological or obscene.
(2) Combinations of letters
or numbers that connote, in any language, breast, genitalia, pubic area, or
buttocks or relate to sexual or eliminatory functions. Additionally, "69"
formats are prohibited unless used in combination with the vehicle make, for
example, "69 CHEV."
(3) Combinations of letters or numbers that
connote, in any language:
(A) any illicit
drug, narcotic, intoxicant, or related
(B) the sale, the user, or the
purveyor of such substance;
physiological state produced by such a substance.
Combinations of letters or numbers that refer, in any language, to a race,
religion, color, deity, ethnic heritage, gender, sexual orientation, disability
status, or political affiliation; provided, however, the commissioner shall not
refuse a combination of letters or numbers that is a generally accepted
reference to a race or ethnic heritage (for example, IRISH).
Combinations of letters or numbers that suggest, in any language, a government
or governmental agency.
(6) Combinations of letters or numbers
that suggest, in any language, a privilege not given by law in this
(7) Combinations of letters or numbers that form, in any
language, a slang term, abbreviation, phonetic spelling or mirror image of a
word described in subdivisions (1) through (6) of this subsection.
Code of Virginia
Sec. 46.2-725. Special license plates, generally.
D. For special
license plates that generate revenues that are shared with entities other than
the Department, hereinafter referred to as "revenue sharing special license
plates," the General Assembly shall review all proposed revenue sharing special
license plate authorizations to determine whether the revenues are to be shared
with entities or organizations that (i) provide to the Commonwealth or its
citizens a broad public service that is to be funded, in whole or in part, by
the proposed revenue sharing special license plate authorization and (ii) are at
least one of the following:
1. A nonprofit corporation as
defined in Sec. 501 (c) (3) of the United States Internal Revenue
2. An agency, board, commission, or other entity
established or operated by the Commonwealth;
3. A political
subdivision of the Commonwealth; or
4. An institution of higher
education whose main campus is located in Virginia.
According to a Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles representative, there is
no statute or rule/regulations detailing what is inappropriate for a
personalized license plate. However, the License Plate Application form used by
the Virginia DMV does have a section that states:
“The combination of characters used to personalize a license plate must not
violate DMV's personalized plate policy. DMV reserves the right to refuse
issuance of any combination of objectionable characters if they, in anyway,
carry a connotation that may be reasonably seen by a person viewing a license
plate as 1) profane, obscene, or vulgar in nature, 2) sexually explicit or
graphic, 3) excretory related, 4) describing intimate body parts or genitals, 5)
describing drug culture or use, 6) condoning or encouraging violence, 7)
describing illegal activities or illegal substances, 8) socially, racially,
ethnically offensive, or disparaging.”
Code of Washington
Sec. 46.16.705. Special license plate review board — Created
(1) The special license plate review board is created ...
Sec. 46.16.725. Board — Powers and duties
(2) The board must
review and either approve or reject special license plate applications submitted
by sponsoring organizations.
Sec. 46.16.735. Special license plates —
Sponsoring organization requirements
(1) For an organization to
qualify for a special license plate under the special license plate approval
program created in RCW 46.16.705 through 46.16.765, the sponsoring organization
must submit documentation in conjunction with the application to the department
(a) That the organization is a nonprofit
organization, as defined in 26 U.S.C. Sec. 501(c)(3) … ; and
That the organization is located in Washington and has registered as a
charitable organization with the secretary of state's office as required by
(2) For a governmental body to qualify for a special
license plate under the special license plate approval program created in RCW
46.16.705 through 46.16.765, a governmental body must be:
political subdivision, including but not limited to any county, city, town,
municipal corporation, or special purpose taxing district that has the express
permission of the political subdivision's executive body to sponsor a special
(b) A federally recognized tribal government that
has received the approval of the executive body of that government to sponsor a
special license plate;
(c) A state agency that has received
approval from the director of the agency or the department head;
(d) A community or technical college that has the express
permission of the college's board of trustees to sponsor a special license
Personalized platesSec. 46.16.600. Personalized license plates —
Rules and regulations
The director of licensing may establish
such rules and regulations as may be necessary to carry out the purposes of RCW
46.16.560 through 46.16.595.
Washington Administrative Code
WAC 308-96A-550. Vehicle special collegiate license plates.
(1) What are the criteria for establishing collegiate license plates?
Application for license plate series from an institution of higher education
under RCW 46.16.324 may be submitted to the special license plate review board
through the process established in RCW 46.16.735 and 46.16.745. In addition the
following criteria must be satisfied:
(a) The plates will
consist of numbers, letters, colors and a symbol or artwork approved by the
department and/or the special license plate review board.
The numbers and letters combination may not exceed seven
(c) The plate series will not conflict with existing
(d) The plate design must provide at least four
positions to accommodate serial numbering.
(e) The plate must
not carry connotations offensive to good taste or decency, which may be
misleading, vulgar in nature, a racial, ethnic, lifestyle or gender slur,
related to illegal activities or substances, blasphemous, contrary to the
department's mission to promote highway safety, or a duplication of other
license plates provided in chapter 46.16 RCW.
(f) The plate must
be designed so that it is legible and clearly identifiable by law enforcement
personnel as an official Washington state issued license plate. A collegiate
license plate design may not be issued in combination with any other license
plate configuration including special, personalized or exempt license
WAC 308-96A-065. Personalized license plates.
may the department deny an application for or cancel personalized
(a) The department may deny an application for personalized
license plates or cancel personalized license plates previously issued if it
determines the plate configuration to be:
(i) Offensive to good taste and
(ii) Potentially misleading;
(iii) Vulgar, profane or sexually
suggestive in nature;
(iv) A racial, ethnic, lifestyle or gender slur;
Related to alcohol or to illegal activities or substances;
(ix) A duplication of
license plate or decal numbers provided in chapter 46.09, 46.10 or 46.16 RCW;
(x) Contrary to the department's mission to promote highway safety.
All requests for special plates must be approved by
the Legislature. If approved, the Legislature amends WV Code Sec.17A-3-14 with
an additional subdivision delineating the criteria for the new license
Specialty and personalized plates
West Virginia Code
Sec. 17A-3-14 Registration plates generally; description of plates; issuance
of special numbers and plates; registration fees; special application fees;
exemptions; commissioner to promulgate forms; suspension and nonrenewal.
Specially arranged registration plates may be issued as
(A) Upon appropriate application, any
owner of a motor vehicle subject to Class A registration, or a motorcycle
subject to Class G registration, as defined by this article, may request that
the division issue a registration plate bearing specially arranged letters or
numbers with the maximum number of letters or numbers to be determined by the
commissioner. The division shall attempt to comply with the request wherever
(9) The division may issue special registration plates to nonprofit
charitable and educational organizations authorized under prior enactment of
this subdivision as follows:
nonprofit charitable and educational organizations previously authorized under
the prior enactment of this subdivision may accept and collect applications for
special registration plates from owners of Class A motor vehicles together with
a special annual fee of fifteen dollars, which is in addition to all other fees
required by this chapter.
commissioner may not approve or authorize any additional nonprofit charitable
and educational organizations to design or market special registration
341.14. Application for and issuance of special plates.
The department shall issue special plates as specified in this section under the
(a) In this subsection and s. 341.145 (1)
(c) , "authorized special group" means a special group enumerated in par. (f) or
designated by the department under par. (fm)
1. In addition to the
special groups specified under par. (f) , any group or organization may apply to
the department for designation as an authorized special group. The department
shall designate any group or organization that meets all of the following
criteria as an authorized special group:
a. The group or
organization is not organized or operated for profit.
group or organization is not a political committee, as defined in s. 11.01 (4) ,
or a political group, as defined in s. 11.01 (10)
c. The group
or organization is not a church, a synagogue, a mosque or any organization,
whether or not organized under ch.187 , that operates under a
d. The group or organization does not promote, practice
or encourage hatred or any form of discrimination.
e. The group
or organization does not carry connotations offensive to good taste or decency,
or that would be misleading, or in conflict with the enumeration or designation
of any other authorized special group.
341.145. Personalized registration plates.
(7) The department may refuse
to issue any combination of letters or numbers, or both, which may carry
connotations offensive to good taste or decency, or which would be misleading,
or in conflict with the issuance of any other registration plates. All decisions
of the department with respect to personalized registration plate applications
shall be final and not subject to judicial review under ch. 227.
Organizations or other entities must get approval from the Legislative before
a new specialty license plate will be issued.
Sec. 31-2-208 Prestige license plates
Excluding dealer and radio
amateur license plates, upon payment of the regular registration fees prescribed
by W.S. 31-3-101 and a prestige license plate fee and application to the
department, the distinctive license plate number assigned to a vehicle may
consist of such combination of alphabetical letters or Arabic numerals not
currently held nor requested by any vehicle owner in the same county if approved
by the department.
Code of Wyoming Rules
CHAPTER 004. PERSONALIZED PRESTIGE LICENSE PLATES.
Section 4. Allowable
(a) Plates shall be issued using only
capital letters and Arabic numerals. No other symbols or characters shall be
allowed. Applicants may request a maximum of four letters or a combination of
four letters and numerical digits. The letters and numbers shall be the same
size as on regular license plates and shall be arranged in a straight horizontal
(b) Any combination that spells, connotes,
abbreviates, or otherwise stands for obscene, vulgar, indecent, or pruriently
suggestive language shall not be allowed. The letters I, O, and Q shall not be
used when all other characters in the combination are numbers. Nor shall the
numeral 1 be substituted for the letter I nor the zero (0) substituted for the
letter O. No four-character combinations shall contain more than two W's or two
M's. No combinations consisting of a number or numbers followed by a single,
double, or triple alphabetic suffix shall be issued as a personalized prestige
license plate. Nor shall combinations consisting entirely of numbers be issued
for prestige plates.