Texas personal license plates: What's considered road worthy?

By Robert Arnold - Investigative Reporter

HOUSTON - Out of the more than 22 million registered vehicles on Texas roads, a select few have decided to accent their ride with a personalized license plate. This is big business for Texas.

Officials at www.myplates.com, a state funded vendor, reported more than $14 million was pumped into the state's general revenue fund since 2009 from drivers buying personalized plates. However, Local 2 discovered not everyone gets to put their own splash of personality on a plate.

In 2012, Texas received 43,265 applications for a personalized plate and 1.26 percent of those applications were rejected. According to records provided to Local 2 by the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles, requests for plates with the words MURDRS, HITMN1, ASASIN and SSNIPR were all rejected.

"I definitely wouldn't honk my horn at them because I'd be worried about some road rage," said Nadine Moon, owner of Who Made The Cake?

Moon's SUV sports the plate, "CAKE MOM."

"My husband's says 'I Love Poker,'" said Moon.

"Would it invoke a response from other drivers driving past that vehicle?" said Randy Elliston, director of Vehicle Titles and Registration for the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles.

Elliston said that question has to be considered when deciding whether a personalized plate request is approved. Which explains why SCHMUK, ALL BS and BIHTME got rejected.

Elliston said anything potentially depicting drug use or illegal activity also can't go on a personal plate. PROZC, XTA Z and SPEEDR all got rejected.

Plates resembling law enforcement are also a "no-no" according to state laws. Those requesting 72FBI and DPSEMS were rejected.

Profanity, sexual innuendo, hate speech and body parts are also banned from personal plates. Elliston said each personal plate request is reviewed by four to five people, read back to front and even upside down to make sure nothing untoward gets on the road.

"You would be amazed at how creative people get," said Elliston.

Not everyone agrees with the state's decision to nix a plate request. According to copies of appeal letters filed with the DMV one person argued "DOGDOO" shouldn't be rejected because, "I am in the pet waste removal business." Another unhappy motorist wrote his request for "OLD F@" should be allowed because it is a "term of endearment" and refers to either a "tribal elder" or a "brand of French wine."

"At the end of the day that falls on my desk and I'm the one that finally says 'yes' or 'no,'" said Elliston.

"I just think, you know, it's a first amendment deal," said Houstonian Edgar Lovett, whose SUV has the plate "TARPON." "I'm an avid Tarpon angler here on the Texas coast."

Lovett viewed the list of rejected plates and thinks the state is being a little too sensitive in some cases.

"I think most of these are cute," said Lovett. "It's a conversation starter."

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