Texas DMV rejects hundreds of ‘indecent, vulgar’ personalized license plates

Picking a personalized Texas license plate isn’t a free-for-all. The Department of Motor Vehicles uses very specific criteria for reviewing vanity plate requests, resulting in more than 1,600 rejected requests.

Car enthusiasts at Saturday’s ‘Classic Cars & Art in the Park’ in Mineola are very familiar with the application process. Dozens of hot rods, rat rods, sports cars and classic trucks drew admirers from across East Texas.

Show organizer Ronnie Gorman says a personalized plate captures the character of the car. Putting a custom tag on his classic car was a simple process. “Like on our Impala, we had a 1966 Impala. It said ‘TUFF 66,’ and it was a pretty sweet car,” he said.

Gorman says vanity plates are an opportunity for self-expression. “You know how they say a person’s pet kind of looks like them. You know, it’s true to the cars as well. It’s a reflection on what it is that they like,” he said.

Don Hobson, of Grapeland, has vanity plates on two of his vehicles. His Chevy SSR sports ‘YESSRE’ plates. “I actually had someone use the phrase “yes siree” looking at my car and just admiring it, and I thought I can spell that and get the SSR in it,” he said.

His pickup truck features a more meaningful message. “I have one that says ‘Jesus’ on one side and ‘us’ on the other. It has a heart in the center. So it makes it say ‘Jesus loves us.’ I’ve actually seen people taking pictures with their phones,” said Hobson.

Others have found ways to reuse plates from previous owners. Clark Spencer, Junior’s red 1981 Chevy Corvette was previously owned by his father, Clark Spencer, Senior. With a Texas antique tag on the rear, Spencer is able to display the original California ‘CWS VET’ vanity plate, bearing the same initials, on the front.

He said his father is “tickled pink” to see his car still running the roads and being shown around East Texas. “He loves it. I actually had a graphite picture drawn of the car last year with his plate on it, and that’s what I gave him for Christmas,” said Spencer.

MyPlates.com designs and markets specialty plates for the Texas DMV, bringing in $22 million in state revenue over the last five years. Customizing a license plate doesn’t end with the phrase. Car owners can choose among dozens of colors, designs featuring colleges, sports and professional teams, as well as charities.

Texas DMV rejects hundreds of ‘indecent, vulgar’ personalized license plates 02
MyPlates.com designs and markets specialty plates for the Texas DMV, bringing in $22 million in state revenue over the last five years.

Not all applications are approved. A Freedom of Information Act request produced a list of more than 1,600 rejected submissions, containing everything from ‘WHT*TRSH,’ ‘UT-SUX’ and ‘KILLR,’ to ‘I FARTED’ and ‘GOVNR.’ The Texas DMV rejects personalized plates for the following reasons: if the alpha-numeric patter conflicts with the department’s license plate numbering system, it is currently issued by another owner or the executive director finds that the alpha-numeric pattern may be considered objectionable or misleading.

Plates can be labeled as indecent; which includes references to a sex act, an excretory function or material or sexual body parts. They must not contain a vulgarity, which are defined as curse words.

Plates may not be derogatory, which is defined as an expression of hate directed toward people or groups or an expression that is demeaning to people or groups, or associated with an organization that advocates such expressions. The DMV also prohibits references to illegal activities or substances, or implied threats of harm, a misrepresentation of law enforcement or other governmental entities and their titles.

Since 2009, more than 185,000 vanity plates have met the State of Texas approval and are currently on the roads.

Tyler Police Sergeant Blake Lockhart passes thousands of vehicles while on duty every day. He’s spent more than 17 years in traffic enforcement and is still surprised by some of the clever plates he spots. “There’s one around town. It’s a sports car with the vanity plate of ‘CATCH ME,'” said Lockhart.

He doesn’t have a personalized license plate on his own vehicle, but appreciates the form of expression. “It’s a way to have a little bit of ourselves in the license plate, to personalize it, and tell other a little bit about not who we are, but how we are,” Lockhart said.

Rejected plate submissions are flagged in the Texas DMV’s system, preventing their use in the future. The DMV will review complaints concerning objectionable specialty plates, according to its website.

SLIDESHOW: Rejected Texas License Plates

The views expressed in this blog do not necessarily reflect the views of KLTV/KTRE-TV or Raycom Media.  They are solely the opinion of the author. All content © Copyright 2014 Lane Luckie

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