SLIDESHOW: Banned license plates in North Carolina

SLIDESHOW: Banned license plates in North Carolina

In North Carolina, there are nearly 6,300 words, names, acronyms and initials that are banned by the state of North Carolina from being on personalized tags.

In many cases, the state's reason for a ban seems obvious. Hundreds of banned plates include letters or numbers that spell out curse words, sex acts or private body parts.

Many more on the list defy easy explanation and could raise questions of fairness. These license plates deal with more political issues, such as guns, race, religion and sexual identity.

Margaret Howell, spokeswoman for N.C. Division of Motor Vehicles, told The Charlotte Observer that the state began cataloging banned plates in 1996. Other plates were added when the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators shared a list of banned tags in other states.

Howell said the division's eight-person Special Plates Unit meets to decide whether a requested plate should be denied. North Carolina law says the division may refuse to issue a tag that "might carry connotations offensive to good taste and decency."

Unit members review the banned list, search the Internet and Urban Dictionary and interview experts to ferret out the latest acronyms for obscenities.

Howell said the state rejects about 12 plates a week, adding them to the list.

But even finding what's banned is a challenge, because the DMV site doesn't list the 6,300 banned combinations of letters, numbers and symbols. Applicants who apply online for banned names are simply told "plate not available," the same message given if the plate had already been ordered by someone else.

Howell says the only way to find out if a plate is banned is to call the DMV Special Plates Unit at 919-861-3575 and ask.

"If it's on the banned list, people can appeal, and sometimes we do see merit in their case," she said. "For instance, if someone's initials spell out an ugly word, they have a good reason to want it. If they can present a good reason, they can overturn their initial rejection."

She said sometimes things slip by the Special Plates Unit and end up on the road. In such cases, it's the public that raises an objection, she says.

On average, the state receives five to 15 such written complaints a year.


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