SUFFOLK -- "I was tickled to death I had two little girls. My favorite color is pink," explained Dana Cobb, "so I did a license plate, just like many other people do, to let everybody know I was the proud mom of two beautiful little girls that I love to dress in pink."
More than 12 years later, the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles is recalling Cobb's license plates which read "2INPINK."
Instead of seeing a mother's bragging in the number and letters, someone saw a dirty message, part of an expression referring to a sex act. That person filed a complaint with the Commonwealth. After considering the complaint, people in the DMV saw the person's point.
"I had never heard this saying before," Cobb told 13News. "I guess you can take anything innocent these days and turn it into something sexually graphic or explicit."
In determining what is acceptable for a personalized plate, the DMV has 8 rules. The combination of characters must not be:
- 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
"Language is a living being, you know, it's difficult. A message may mean one thing to one person and something else to another person," said DMV spokeswoman Melanie Stokes.
"A good example is 'WTF.' That used to be okay to have on your license plate, but the last several years, that has been on the 'No-no List,' so no more 'WTF' on Virginia license plates."
Stokes explained the department uses a computer program as one safeguard against questionable plates. The DMV also has a committee that considers possible problems monthly. Typically, the total issues that come up range between 15 and 25 each month.
"Just when we think we've seen it all, something new will come through, and do we miss a few? We sure do, and are we overly cautious sometimes? You bet," Stokes said.
"I saw one," began Cobb, referring to someone else's plate, "when I was driving home from work. I said '1800CYA.' Okay, the first thing that my brain goes to is '1-800-SEE-YOU,' but, then, I thought about it a little more. We all know what C-Y-A stands for."
Cobb added, "That could offend me, and, so, should that plate be removed?"
The mom of two is appealing the DMV's decision to recall her plates, feeling, in part the process has been a waste of everyone's time and money.
"I should have to relinquish something that's innocent and precious to me, because they want to turn it into something that it's no, and that's what's bothering me over this whole thing," said Cobb. "I've seriously thought about putting in for a license plate that says 'DMV SUX,' to see if I could get that passed through, or would they deny that because I was being derogatory against the DMV?"