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Special Report: Vanity plates in New York

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Updated: 5/01 8:59 pm

ALBANY, N.Y. – Some requests for custom license plates in New York are automatically denied by the Department of Motor Vehicles because of a list of banned words.

Since there are many combinations of letters and numbers, the DMV decided they needed to ban some words completely. The “red list” list includes hundreds of combinations that some may describe as disgusting and downright dirty words.

However, the list also includes silly terms and words that some people might not find offensive.

“There’s a lot on this list, pretty offensive, it’s easy to see,” said Rensselaer County Clerk Frank Merola.

There are more than 700 words on the list. Some of the words are the usual four letter suspects, but there are also some unusually innocent terms.

“I saw on there, ‘God’, that would not be offensive to me, but to someone else it could be offensive. If they deem it to be offensive they could pull it from someone,” said Merola.

The decision of what words are accepted and which ones are banned comes down to the Commissioner of the New York State DMV, Barbara Fiala.

“With the DMV, everything is a privilege, not a right. You have the privilege to order a plate, but you don’t have the right to get it,” explained Merola.

Merola explained that every day there is a print out of custom plate orders, which are reviewed and cross checked with the red list. However, the final decision all comes down to Fiala.

NEWS10 ABC reached out to Fiala’s office to find out how they make their decisions on the red list, but the office did not return the calls by air time.

According to DMV rules, if a word is deemed obscene, lewd, patently offensive, or derogatory to any particular group, the Commissioner can say ‘no’ to it.

“Some of them are unique. I don't see how they're objectionable, but that’s the Commissioner’s call,” said Merola.

So while BIG*MEANIE is deemed to not be offensive, the words DORK and FAIRY are off limits.

If there is a plate on the road that you see and find it offensive, you can call the DMV and explain why you believe it is offensive. It is then up to the Commissioner to decide on pulling that plate.

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