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Sex, drugs, profanity among NC's rejected license plates

Posted March 8

As of February, more than 245,000 North Carolina vehicles had personalized license plates, and those are just the approved ones. The state Division of Motor Vehicles has rejected more than 6,000 plates, mostly due to sex, drug and profanity references. WRAL News requested the entire list and created a photo gallery of 100 of the rejected plates. (Editor's note: The DMV deemed the following plates in poor taste, and they may be offensive to some.)

100 rejected NC plates
Photo illustrations by Valerie Aguirre and Kelly Hinchcliffe


Frequently asked questions about NC's personalized plates:

Q: What text is acceptable?

A: Your personalized text may consist of any combination of letters, numbers or special characters. The NCDMV may refuse submissions of text that are:

  • Deemed offensive to good taste and decency
  • Over the space limit allowed for each plate style
  • Duplicates of another plate issued to a registered North Carolina vehicle

If you are ordering by mail and your first choice text is disallowed, the next choice of text is evaluated. If all choices are disallowed, the application will be denied and you will be notified by mail. You may reapply with other choices at any time.

Q: How many character spaces are allowed on personalized plates?

A: The number of characters allowed depends on the type of North Carolina license plate you choose:

  • Private auto license plate: up to eight characters
  • Private motorcycle license plate: up to seven characters
  • Private trailer license plate: up to six characters
  • Disabled license plate: up to six characters
  • Special license plate: up to four characters

Personalized special plate requests must contain at least one letter.

Q: Can numbers or special characters be used on personalized plates?

A: You can use numbers and some special characters, including the question mark (?), ampersand (&), dollar sign ($) and the “at” symbol (@). You can get creative and use symbols or numbers where letters would take up too much space. The letter “O” is automatically converted into a zero (0) on your personalized license plate to avoid confusion.

Personalized special plate requests must contain at least one letter. Some special characters occupy one-half space in width. Half-space characters are allowed on motorcycle license plates.

Q: How much does it cost?

A: Both standard and special registration plates can be personalized. The additional personalized plate fee of $30 is charged at the time of purchase and at each annual registration renewal.

Special registration plate fees vary depending on the style of plate you choose. The additional fee is charged at the time of purchase and at each annual registration renewal.

Personalized and special registration plate fees are additional and are not included in standard vehicle registration fees.

Q: How long does it take to get a personalized plate?

A: Personalized plate orders are sent to a vendor for manufacturing. Once the DMV receives the plate from the manufacturer, it is mailed to the individual along with a new registration card and validation stickers to the address listed on their registration record. This process takes approximately 4-8 weeks. When you receive your personalized plate, swap out the old plate for the new one and return the plate to your nearest license plate agency.

Q: What types of vehicles can have a personalized plate?

A: The types of vehicles that can be issued a personalized plate are:

  • Private vehicle
  • Private motorcycle
  • Private trailer

Personalization is not available for commercial license plates. However, some commercial vehicles may be issued a standard North Carolina "First in Flight" plate, which can be personalized.

Q: What does not available mean? Why can’t I have this personalized plate choice?

A: If you are using the DMV's online plate search, personalize and order tool and see the message "Plate not available," it means that your personalized plate choice is being used by another applicant, conflicts with another plate class or it may not be allowed because of poor taste.

Q: Can I give a personalized plate to a friend or relative?

A: If you have a personalized plate and would like to give that plate to a friend or relative you cannot actually give the plate to them, but you can release the rights to the personalized plate text to them. You would need to complete an MVR-27N (personalized license plate relinquish form) and return the personalized license plate along with the completed form to a license plate agency. The personalized plate will be turned in with a special code that will relinquish the plate text to the friend or relative. Once the plate has been turned in with the special code, the friend or relative may request a personalized plate with that same personalized text and pay the $30 personalized fee along with any other fees that might be due at that time.

Q: How do I transfer a personalized plate to a new or a different vehicle?

A: Please see the transfer license plate to another vehicle page for information on how to move your license plate from one vehicle to another.

Q: Can I request a new plate with the same personalized plate text?

A: Yes. If you request a new personalized license plate at the time you are paying the license plate renewal fee for a current personalized plate, a new plate will be manufactured with the cost of the renewal fee (the plate text may be the same or a different text). If you request a new personalized plate any other time than when you are paying the renewal fee for a personalized plate the cost will be the $30 personalized plate fee.

Q: How do I return an unwanted personalized or special plate to DMV?

A: At the time of your vehicle’s registration renewal, you may visit your nearest license plate agency and request a standard license plate to replace the personalized plate. Bring the personalized plate in with you for surrender. You will receive the standard license plate and pay the standard renewal fee.

If renewing by mail, indicate on your registration card that you request a standard plate. Include a check for the registration renewal fee, minus the personalized plate fee. Your registration will be renewed and a new license plate will be mailed to you in about 10 days. When your new plate arrives, destroy the old personalized license plate or send it to the below address:

N.C. Division of Motor Vehicles
3148 Mail Service Center
Raleigh, N.C. 27699

You will not be able to request a standard plate if you renew your registration online.

Source: NCDOT.gov

1 Comment

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  • -Va- Mar 10, 4:12 p.m.

    Some of these aren't bad. Some of them are tasteless. Who makes the decision to reject these anyway?