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New bill seeks to crack down on offensive license plates in Utah

Posted at 11:47 AM, Feb 04, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-04 17:31:17-05

SALT LAKE CITY — A bill introduced in the Utah State Legislature would allow the state to crack down on offensive license plates.

Senate Bill 97, sponsored by Senate Minority Whip Luz Escamilla, D-Salt Lake City, allows Utah's Division of Motor Vehicles to reject a license plate if it disparages someone based on race, color, national origin, religion, age, gender, sexual orientation, citizenship status or disability.

In an interview with FOX 13, Sen. Escamilla said she was adding the categories in light of recent controversies over personalized license plates in Utah.

"It’s very tough to define what’s offensive because it may not be offensive for others," she said. " But I think in Utah, we want to make sure we included the protected classes."

Currently, Utah's DMV is in the midst of reviewing how a driver obtained the license plate that says "DEPORTM." The agency normally can restrict personalized license plates and has the ability to recall ones it deems offensive.

Utah Tax Commission spokeswoman Tammy Kikuchi said Tuesday the license plate is in the midst of an appeal process by the owner.

In 2018, FOX 13 reported on how the DMV scrutinizes personalized license plates, which have prompted free speech legal challenges.