Offensive License Plates Are Now Legal In California

Government / 29 Comments

But not vulgar ones.

We've all seen them at some point. You're sitting in traffic after a long day at work, just minding your own business. A gap opens in front of you and is quickly filled by some - insert preferred expletive here - in something like a Corvette. And what's worse is that you can't forget about this person because they have a vanity plate that highlights what a self-centered moron they are. To make yourself feel better, you'll find a way to get offended by the vanity plate, but here's the thing: if you're in California, you'll probably soon see even more offensive plates. Let us explain.

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US District Judge Jon Tigar has ruled this week on a case originally filed in March against the director of the Department of Motor Vehicles, Steve Gordan. The case was brought forward by five Californians who were denied permission to put certain messages on license plates.

Among those who had issues were a fan of rock band Slayer who wanted the plate "SLAAYRR" but was denied because some might find it "threatening, aggressive or hostile". Another civilian was a gay man from Oakland who owns a business called Queer Folks Records. Fittingly, he wanted to use "QUEER" as the script for his plate, but this was refused on the grounds that some might find it insulting.

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Other applications were denied as they could be construed as sexual or vulgar. The judge said that the personalized messages were a part of personal expression, and "must be both viewpoint-neutral and reasonable." However, the DMV may still deny plates that are obscene, profane or contain hate speech as these would fall outside of the rights of the First Amendment. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the DMV is reviewing the ruling and has declined any further comment at this stage. So for now, it seems that potentially offensive plates will become more common, but at least sometimes there'll still be a clever or funny plate to make you smirk in traffic.

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Source Credits: San Francisco Chronicle

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