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'FOSAMA' license plate yanked by DMV, deemed offensive

GLOUCESTER, Va. -- The Department of Motor Vehicles asked a Gloucester man to return his license plates seven years after he first registered the tags. According to the DMV, the message on them is inappropriate.

Rick Sanders said he chose "FOSAMA" because he is passionate about supporting the nation's military. Sanders bought his first vanity plate after the September 11 terrorist attacks. That plate read "H8UBIN."

But, it's his latest plates that are causing all the commotion.

 "It can be meant as 'Fight Osama, forget Osama,' whatever you want it to be," said Sanders.

Two months before his current plates are set to expire, Sanders received a letter from the DMV saying he has 30 days to return them. The letter said the DMV made an error issuing him plates that violate its guidelines. The DMV explained the plates are "profane, obscene or vulgar in nature."

Replacement plates came with the letter, and in an ironic twist, Sanders told he finds the message on them offensive. They read "6668UP." Sanders read the message as 'the devil ate you up.'

 "I definitely want another plate," said Sanders. "I don't appreciate the plate they sent me. I would like the chance to pick my own."

A spokesperson for the DMV said the number and letter combinations are chosen at random. The DMV is willing to work with Sanders until he is satisfied.

The DMV said judging by how long it's been since Sanders registered, the change is probably provoked by a complaint.

The DMV physically reviews vanity plates, and sometimes runs them through software that reads the message both forward and backward.

If additional review is needed, the plates will go before a committee of 12 people, chosen from within the DMV. The committee members are all different ages and come from different backgrounds in the agency.

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Here are the conditions that deem a plate "inappropriate." If the combination of characters carries, in any way, a connotation that may be reasonably seen by a person viewing the plate as:

  • Profane, obscene, or vulgar in nature
  • Sexually explicit or graphic
  • Excretory related
  • Used to describe intimate body parts or genitals
  • Used to describe drugs, drug culture, or drug use
  • Used to condone or encourage violence
  • Used to describe illegal activities or illegal substances
  • Socially, racially, or ethnically offensive or disparaging

A spokesperson said 13 percent of the 7.5 million vehicles in the Commonwealth have vanity plates. In  2011, the state made $9 million from vanity plate purchases, according to a DMV spokesperson.

The DMV committee will only review putting '666' on license plates if they receive a significant number of consumer complaints.

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