How Florida weeds out questionable personalized license plates

'I can't even say some of these things,' driver says

MIAMI – South Florida is a place where it seems everyone wants to stand out. For many drivers, one way to do that is with a personalized license plate.

But not all requests for unique individual tags get the green light from Florida's Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.

Local 10 News reviewed the list of Florida's hundreds of requests for personalized tags that state reviewers denied.

"I'm interested in the murder," said driver Daisy Carpenter regarding a tag reading MURDR. "That's someone maybe they should look into."

"I can't even say some of these things," Nicole Heath said. "I find them all offensive, I think."

"I wouldn't let my grandmother see me say something like that, let alone have it on my tag," said Carlos Scott.

CLICK HERE to see ALL rejected license plate submissions

Many of the requests are too graphic to show, but some rejections include: GO2 HELL, IKIK ASS, ILCUTU and H00KER using two zeros for Os.

The state doesn't just screen for profanity and sexually suggestive language. They also screen applications mentioning or targeting law enforcement or racially insensitive phrases. They use a range of resources to catch them all.

The review committee can use an unabridged dictionary, a slang dictionary, a medical dictionary and an online foreign language dictionary to process requests.

The committee can deny anything deemed obscene, as in offensive to morality or decency. They can also reject any objectionable phrases, such as those expressing hatred or violence.

We found plenty of example from both categories on the rejection list, prompting drivers to say it's a good thing someone is reviewing the requests.

"We already have road rage as it is. You know what I mean," Heath said. "Why add other reasons for people to get even more upset?"

Tags labeled 1-FHP, A FBI and K-9 UN1T were all denied for being too similar to actual law enforcement.

"This could actually get people hurt. Whether they realize it or not," said driver Ro Lam. "If someone sees that they could take it the wrong way and all of a sudden they become a victim."

Some questionable tags do slip through but can be overturned if someone files a complaint.

Alexis Bakofsky, deputy communications director with Florida's Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, said the agency uses a multilayered approach to catch any inappropriate tag requests.

Currently, she said, there are about 400,000 personalized license plates statewide, not including personalized specialty plates.

About the Author:

Amy Viteri is an Emmy Award-winning journalist who joined Local 10 News in September 2015. She's currently an investigative reporter and enjoys uncovering issues facing South Florida communities. A native of the Washington, D.C., area, she's happy to be back in South Florida, where she earned a masters degree at the University of Miami.