Colorado’s rejected vanity license plates
August 2, 2017
Do you like Tabasco sauce, consider yourself a lovable nerd or have an undying affection for Pepsi products?
If so, expressing yourself, at least via personalized license plates, may be difficult.
That’s because the Colorado Department of Revenue prohibits thousands of personalized license plate combinations, including Tabasco, God, Geeeek and Cokesux.
There are many more, of course, as clerks at the Department of Motor Vehicles, which is part of the Department of Revenue, are given authority to judge the relative offensiveness of whatever plate combinations you request.
They can ax the request unilaterally, or send it along to a shadowy “review panel,” a rotating group of DMV management and county clerks. There’s even an internal guiding document that helps clerks spot offensive plates.
If your plate gets through those hurdles, you’re still not in the clear. A fellow motorist could report your tag for being offensive, too. It seems the lesson is to be a friendly driver, lest others report your plate as payback for being cut off. Doesn’t exactly seem proportional, does it?
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Each and every time, the newly offensive license plate combination is added to the list. And like “Hotel California,” once a license plate combination is on the list, it never leaves.
So if you’re “tart,” an “olfart,” or a fan of Super Troopers — car “ramrod,” anyone? — you’re out of luck. Golf fan? “Stroke” is out.
A fan of country music and true to your roots? “Honkie” ain’t cutting it either, friend.
How about fast car enthusiasts? “Eatdst” has been left in the dust.
The whole policy, which has seen a tofu lover “Ilvtofu” shunned this past spring, has raised First Amendment concerns along with simple questions, such as, “What’s wrong with ACDC?”
In a September 2016 story, the CBS affiliate in Denver wondered whether censoring vanity license plates was a violation of free speech.
The news organization pointed out the issue already has been litigated at least once — in Texas, where the Sons of Confederate Veterans sought a specialty plate featuring the Confederate battle flag and was rejected.
That case eventually went to the United States Supreme Court in 2015, where the court held that license plates are actually government speech, not private speech, so the Department of Motor Vehicles in Texas had every right to engage in censorship.
So, if you want to be a heathen and display obscene plates, you’ll just have to get creative. But, you should know, “heethen” is taken.