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Secretary of State details process to remove profane license plates

The Bureau of Motor Vehicles released its plan to ban these plates.

AUGUSTA, Maine — Nearly 123,000 cars registered in Maine have vanity license plates. You've probably seen them. But then there are the ones that push the boundaries of decency. You know, the ones with words we can't say.

"There was a law change a few years ago, and Maine suddenly became the Wild West of license plates," Secretary of State Shenna Bellows said.

Now the state is going to get rid of those wild plates. The Legislature passed a law banning ones that have obscene or profane words or phrases.

"What a lot of people don't realize is the license plate is actually government issued and government owned," Bellows said.

If you have a license plate with a swear or sexual innuendo, you'll get a notice in the mail telling you you need a new plate. You'll have 14 days to appeal the state's decision. Otherwise, you'll get a new plate for free.

Bellows said deciding if a license plate is vulgar will take some time.

"It will be a fair, neutral, and deliberative process," she said.

One place officials will look for guidance? It's not exactly Merriam-Webster.

"What are some of the objective sources of obscenity and profanity?" Bellows asked. "Well, the Urban Dictionary is an objective source that is very thorough in explaining obscenity and profanity."

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