This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2007, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
In Utah, you may not have a vanity license plate with the word MERLOT on it because that is the name of a wine and you might corrupt everyone who sees it.
But you may have a license plate holder that says "Happiness is a Dead Child" with no repercussions because that is a free speech issue.
A group heading into Macy's at 7800 South and 3200 West noticed the offensive message on the custom-made license plate holder of a red Cadillac; they were appalled.
One notified the state Division of Motor Vehicles, which recently canceled a previously issued MERLOT license plate, and was told the state has no control over license plate holders, only government-issued license plates.
That, of course, is true. But compared to the First Amendment-protected message on the license plate holder, MERLOT seems mild.
Meanwhile: While going through his mail, Kelly Anderson of Salt Lake City recently discovered the personalized license plate on his 1978 Jeep for seven years was being recalled by the state Division of Motor Vehicles.
Why? The license plate bears just one letter: "X." The DMV says that violates a state rule against plates "with combinations of letters associated with illicit drugs."
Tax Commission spokesman Charlie Roberts says the license was revoked because the letter X is commonly used as a street name for the illegal drug ecstasy.
But Anderson says he is appealing the revocation because someone has to stand up for the rights of the letter "X" as a reputable member of the alphabet community.
"If indeed the single letter 'X' is hopelessly intertwined and bound together with drug use," Anderson wrote, "I would ask the rhetorical question, why does the state of Utah continue to subject innocent children throughout our public school system to that evil letter [when teaching the alphabet]?"
It could be worse: At least we're not in South Dakota.
According to a recent story in the Rapid City Journal, the South Dakota Department of Motor Vehicles decided to rescind Heather Morijah's personalized license plates, "MPEACHW," because of one complaint. Morijah said she would fight the decision because the message on her plate is constitutionally protected political free speech.
Striving to meet quotas? A Salt Lake City woman spent $800 to get her car up to standard to pass the safety inspection and emission requirements, then went online for her registration renewal and put the temporary sticker on her car. But because it was not in the back window, she got a ticket from Salt Lake City's finest.
She paid the fine, pasted the sticker on her back window as instructed - but promptly got another ticket. When she protested in court she was told the sticker wasn't visible enough due to the tint on her back window. But she had passed the inspection. After realizing she had a point, a hearing officer dropped the citation.