Data Tracker

What license plates did the DMV reject? Some might surprise you.

Can you guess whether the DMV rejected these license plates?

These applications for personalized license plates were reviewed by the California DMV. Can you guess which ones they approved or denied?
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These applications for personalized license plates were reviewed by the California DMV. Can you guess which ones they approved or denied?

Would the California DMV give YOURPL8 idea the GRNLITE? There’s a good chance it will get the KIBOSH if the DMV’s most suspicious minds detect something XR8TD.

The department receives more than 20,000 personalized license plate applications per month. Requests that seem to run afoul of the state’s guidelines – for profanity, for example – are sent to a special group of DMV reviewers.

This database contains more than 12,000 license plates that were flagged for review during the last six months of 2016. It includes the applicant’s explanation of the plate idea, a reason code for why the plate was flagged, comments from the DMV reviewer (frequently just a translation of the plate), and whether the reviewer approved or denied the plate request.

About three-quarters of the applications flagged for review were denied.

State law prohibits plates, or “configurations,” as the DMV calls them, that “carry connotations offensive to good taste and decency.” The department can refuse an application for these seven reasons, although it is not limited to them:

1. The configuration has a sexual connotation or is a term of lust or depravity.

2. The configuration is a vulgar term; a term of contempt, prejudice, or hostility; an insulting or degrading term; a racially degrading term; or an ethnically degrading term.

3. The configuration is a swear word or term considered profane, obscene, or repulsive.

4. The configuration has a negative connotation to a specific group.

5. The configuration misrepresents a law enforcement entity.

6. The configuration has been deleted from regular series license plates.

7. The configuration is a foreign or slang word or term, or is a phonetic spelling or mirror image of a word or term falling into the categories described in the first six reasons.

The rules also prohibit look-alike plates, where a letter or number is substituted to create plates that are similar in appearance, and the number “69” is reserved for vehicles of that model year.

More than 30 specialized plate backgrounds are available. Most have no effect on the plate configuration, but if an applicant selects the “kids” plate background, four special symbols can be requested. The symbols appear in the database as these characters: “#” indicates a hand, “$” indicates a heart, “+” indicates a plus sign and “&” indicates a star. A slash in a configuration represents a half-space.

What if you see an offensive license plate?

You can report an offensive license plate by sending a letter to Vehicle Registration Operations, Department of Motor Vehicles, PO Box 942869, Sacramento, CA 94269-0001.

DMV license plate reviews

Search the database for your plate idea, or for specific topics or words that might appear in the application statement or the DMV’s comments. Select “Y” or “N” in the “Approved?” drop-down menu to limit the search to requests that were approved or denied.

WARNING: Because of its purpose, the database contains exceptionally crude and offensive language.

Staff writer Bill Lindelof contributed to this report.

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