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Clean your plate: Thinking about naughty or nasty tags for your car? Ohio BMV says think again

Safety, propriety rule requests from car owners
Posted: 6:00 AM, Aug 23, 2016
Updated: 2016-08-23 13:16:02Z
Which Ohio license plates were banned and why?
Which Ohio license plates were banned and why?

CINCINNATI -- Have you ever seen a personalized license plate and wondered, “How do they get away with that?”

You should see the ones that get rejected.

We're talking widespread distracted driving or road rage here if approved, at best.

The Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles has a Special Plates Review Committee that meets daily to oversee personalized license plate requests from Ohio motorists. This committee has existed since at least 2002, said Lindsey Bohrer, the BMV spokeswoman.

“We err on the side of balance between freedom of speech and limiting profanity, offensiveness or phrases that could incite lawless behavior,” said Lindsey Bohrer, the BMV public information officer. (Provided photo)

Requests can range from some of the benign things you see on the street, “GRANDPA,” or “GO REDS,” for example, to something truly offensive, like “GO STEELERS.” (I kid, Steelers fans, I kid.)

Click here to see the full list of personalized Ohio license plates that were denied in 2016

(Disclaimer: Some of the banned plates contain offensive and vulgar language)

My Grandpa McKinley did have the “GRANDPA” license plate in Kentucky for over 30 years, so the idea of what gets approved and denied intrigued me. Obviously, something innocuous like “GRANDPA,” would be fine with any review committee, but some of the ones that were rejected are … well, it’s surprising someone even tried to get them through. 

They range from vulgar and obscene to downright racist and hateful. Since Jan. 4, over 350 personalization requests for license plates have been denied. Some of the less colorful ones include: “5MRTA55,” “POOPIES,” “FUBAR 50” and “COCAINE.” 

The requests rejected so far this year include those obvious red flags and sophomoric yuks, and yet others that seem so obscure as to leave one wondering what the car's owner was trying to say.

Yeah, probably best to say "Huh-uh," just to be safe.

This YouTube video includes examples of banned plates from California, Ohio and British Columbia. Viewers please note that while some are more offensive or vulgar than others, they’ve all been rejected for a reason.

A few years ago, there were multiple variations of people trying to express their disdain at LeBron James for leaving Cleveland by stating it colorfully on their license plates. Be creative or coarse and you can imagine what they tried to say. This year, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has been a more popular choice for vitriolic plate requests.

Another type of request that typically gets denied are plates with zeroes or the letter “O.” The reason for this, said Bohrer, is that these characters are difficult for police officers to distinguish. 

“We err on the side of balance between freedom of speech and limiting profanity, offensiveness or phrases that could incite lawless behavior,” she said. 

Bohrer also said when reviewing requests for special license plates, the BMV rejects requests that:

  • Contain words, combinations and/or phrases (in any language and when read either frontward or backward) that are profane (that is, swear words or expletives) obscene, sexually explicit or scatological.
  • 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.
  • Contains words, combinations and/or phrases (in any language and when read either frontward or backward) that advocate immediate lawlessness or advocate lawless activities.  

One thing that cannot be altered is a restricted plate, the court-issued plates for those convicted of OVI, or operating a vehicle impaired, formerly called a DUI or DWI. Those plates are issued in Ohio under the following circumstances:

  • If you are convicted of OVI as a first offense, the judge has discretion to order restricted plates as a condition of granting you limited driving privileges.
  • If you are placed under an administrative license suspension, a judge has discretion to order restricted plates as a condition of granting limited driving privileges.
  • If you are convicted of OVI as a first offense that involves a “high test”, the judge must order restricted plates as a condition of limited driving privileges.
  • If you are convicted of OVI as a second offense or more within six years, the judge must order restricted plates as a condition of limited driving privileges.
  • If you are convicted of OVI as a fourth offense or more within 20 years, the judge must order restricted plates as a condition of limited driving privileges.

Those looking to get personalized plates should check  https://www.oplates.com/  for availability.