Edited by the author
Image: Maine Bureau Of Motor Vehicles

Today I learned that motorists in the state of Maine are writing, to put it delicately, all kinds of fucked up shit on their license plates. Why? Who knows. How? Apparently state just waits for somebody to complain, in lieu of a screening system. Hilarity then ensues.

Our old friend Doug DeMuro showed me the delightfully offensive Vanity_of_Maine Facebook page which shares pictures of Maine license plates featuring friendly overtures such as “IEATASS,” “WEED4ME,” “BAWLZDP,” and I think that’s about as much as I can get away with under the pretense of newsworthiness. It’s on Instagram too.

The plates in the pictures certainly look real, and indeed, DeMuro Carfax’d “FUCKIT” and “FUCKCT” confirming that they belonged to the cars they appeared to be bolted on.

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Now, every state in America allows people to customize license plates to some degree. Usually you get shut down in the application process if you try to put a naughty word on one. Not always. But usually.

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Actually the state of Maine’s own Bureau of Motor Vehicles spells its own rules out pretty plainly on a vanity plate FAQ page:

Vanity plates are a great way to personalize your motor vehicle. Bear in mind as you request a phrase, acronym or abbreviation to use on a Maine registration plate that other citizens may not understand your intended phrase, or be offended by it, and may complain to the Office of the Secretary of State. Maine law, MRSA Title 29-A subsection 453, paragraph 3-A states: 3-A. Restrictions. The Secretary of State, in the Secretary of State’s discretion, may refuse to issue or may recall a vanity plate that: A. Consists of or comprises language that is obscene, contemptuous, profane or prejudicial; B. Promotes abusive or unlawful activity; C. Falsely suggests an association with public institutions; or D. Is duplicative. Should the Secretary of State receive a complaint about a vanity plate, the holder of that plate may be required to surrender the use of that registration plate.

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The only logical conclusion is that there is no decent screening process, and the state just waits for somebody to complain about an offensive plate to do anything.

I feel kind of bad tattling on all the folks with the good (great?) license plates we found here. And also for the person at the motor vehicle department who will have to file an inevitable deluge of complaints. But this was too absurd not to share.

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And to think, out here in California I got a plate denied just because the word resembled another word.

(It’s not a crazy story, I wanted to get “R3W1ND,” Which I thought was cute for a 1980s car with the chassis code “Z31.” That was not taken but there is a rule in California that you can’t use numbers to replace letters if the word is taken. “REWIND” was taken. So. Yeah.)