ODPS reveals how personalized license plates are approved, rejected


Personalized plates in the state of Ohio. Each one is unique. Each one started as an idea that was approved by the Ohio Department of Public Safety.

Inside ODPS off West Broad Street it's their job to find the meaning behind the word.

The Special Plate Requisition Committee is tasked with recommending approval or denial for personalized plates.

Page after page, the committee reviews and discusses each of the requests. They meet every day.

"It is such a process," Chief of Vehicle Information Services, Devon Riggins, said. "Every single day."

Committee members say they continue to be amazed, every day, at the creativity of some of those who request plates.

"We have some creative citizens of Ohio," Janet Lohr said.

Lohr has been on the committee for the past five years. As you might guess, she's seen some things.

"Oh, yes," she said. "Many times."

The question: What's appropriate?

If you want a personalized plate there's a few things you need to know when it comes to the words or phrases you wish to put on your plate. According to the ODPS, the BMV shall reject any request that:

  1. Contains words, combinations and/or phrases (in any language and when read either frontward or backwards) that are profane (that is, swearwords and expletives), obscene, sexually explicit, or scatological (feces or excrement), or;
  2. Contains words, combinations and/or phrases (in any language and when read frontward or backwards) that are so offensive that they could reasonably be expected to provoke a violent responses from viewers without additional comment; or
  3. Contains words, combinations and/or phrases (in any language and when read frontward or backwards) that advocate immediate lawlessness or advocate lawless activities.

Don't try to sneak one past the committee. They'll know.

"We use Google and we also use Urban Dictionary," Lohr said. "And, we have a diverse committee, which brings different backgrounds. There's a lot of diversity that helps us."

In 2017, ODPS rejected 349 personalized plate requests.

Committee members aren't surprised, anymore. They've seen it all. Lohr says they will continue to give the benefit of the doubt, in some cases.

"Sometimes, we do," she said. "You can't always judge a book by its cover."

Riggins says the hardest part about approving and denying plates is not becoming cynical.

"It's not looking at every license plate and saying, 'I know you're saying something, but I can't figure out what it is that you're trying to say'," she said.

Once recommendations are made by the committee, they are sent to Riggins as well as her boss and a representative from the legal team. Then, the registrar's office has the final approval.

If a plate is approved, ODPS says drivers will normally receive it within 10 days.

List of some rejected plate in 2017:

  • IH8 PPLE
  • BOMB
  • IH8UAL
  • HE11RZR
  • H8PPL
  • H8EVRY1
  • 1F4RT3D
  • IH8EVR1
  • PPL H8TR