Vanity plates are popular in Nevada, but some are off-limits

Updated June 26, 2017 - 5:48 pm

It’s not uncommon to see personalized license plates bearing messages such as “beehive,” “vroooom,” “mrandmr” and the uncomfortable-sounding “smthrme” on Nevada roads. However, when it comes to choosing vanity plates, people can’t always get what they want.

You won’t see license plates with the message “gopalin,” a reference to former vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin, which a Douglas County resident attempted to get but was denied. He sued the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles in 2011.

According to the DMV’s administrative code (NAC 482.320), which regulates personalized license plates, messages cannot “express contempt, ridicule or superiority of race, ethnic heritage, religion or gender.” Messages cannot contain a direct or indirect reference to a drug or gang, make a defamatory reference to a person or group, or be vulgar, sexual, derogatory, profane or obscene.

For law enforcement purposes, license plate letters including “O,” “I” and “Q” may not be used alone, but may be used with a combination of other letters, according to the DMV. The letters also cannot create confusion with letters such as “O” and “Q” versus the number zero or the letter “I” versus the number one.

In Nevada, 211,776 drivers had personalized license plates as of June 9, which covers nearly 10 percent the state’s 2,459,643 registered vehicles, Nevada DMV spokesman Kevin Malone said. The rate of people getting personalized plates has been consistent over the years, he said.

It costs $44 with a $20 renewal fee for a standard license plate and $40 for motorcycles with a $20 annual fee to get a vanity plate in Nevada, according to the DMV’s website.

Darlene Adams of North Las Vegas has a personalized license plates on each of her three vehicles: a Jaguar, Mercedes and Porsche.

“My Jaguar was significant because of the circumstances surrounding it,” she said. “I just felt like God was in the midst of that purchase and I heard a gospel song ‘God favored me,’ so I got ‘godfvme.’ My Mercedes and Porsche just made sense — ‘hghmtnc’ and ‘hgmtnc2’ (because) both of my cars require expensive upkeep (i.e. high maintenance).”

Shawn Jackson of the north valley has “shawnj” on his Denali truck.

“I wanted customized plates because, on average, I haven’t seen many others with them, and it was always a dream of mine to have my name on my plates so everyone knows whose car or truck this is,” he said. “I hated my name until about a few years ago, and as I grew to love it, I kind of grew confidence and now I just want my name everywhere.”

The DMV doesn’t keep records of the themes or topics, such as sports, cities and names, that people get on their plates, Malone said.

Customers can order personalized plates online and see if the plate they want is available through the DMV’s website. People can also call or email to verify if their choice is available. Although a message like “Idiot69” shows as available online, it will get rejected through the review process, Malone said.

Drivers also can print an application form from the DMV’s website, then mail it, fax it or drop it off at a DMV office.

If a message is deemed controversial, the request is taken to a license plate committee made up of department administrators including Malone, and they vote whether the plate should be approved.

Some people have tried to use words that are obscene in foreign languages or slang words, Malone said. Some terms, such as “lit,” have changed connotation over the years. It used to refer to a person being high on drugs but has evolved to mean something that is cool, DMV public-information officer Alex Smith said. Smith is also on the license plate committee.

“A plate that was fine in 2003 might not be acceptable in 2017 because now it’s common slang for something inappropriate,” she said.

Committee members ask their family members, friends and others about slang to avoid issues, Malone said.

If a person applying for a personalized plate disagrees with the verdict, he or she can appeal through the Office of Administrative Hearings, according to the DMV. And if they still aren’t pleased with the results, they can appeal in district court, Malone said. He said he wasn’t aware of any such appearls recently.

On the flip side, if residents see personalized plates they find offensive, they may file complaints through the DMV’s website.

In California, the DMV reviews about 5,000 personalized license plate requests per week, public-information officer Artemio Armenta said. Of the 26.5 million licensed drivers in California, about 1 million have personalized plates, he said. It costs $48-$98, depending on the type of license plate frame.

In California, the number 69 is reserved only for 1969-model vehicles. In Colorado, drivers cannot get military-themed plates, featuring things such as the special forces or army, the state communications specialist Kyle Boyd said.

Of the 5,665,845 registered vehicles in Colorado, about 43,000 have personalized plates, which costs about $50 a year, according to the state DMV’s website.

There are no restrictions on bumper stickers or any message a person wants to put on their car because they are not issued by the state, Malone said.

Contact Kailyn Brown at or 702-387-5233. Follow @kailynhype on Twitter.

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