Statement from Kelly Nolan Cortesi, Director of Communications at the Tennessee Department of Revenue, regarding the process of how the Department of Revenue decides whether a personalized license plate request is offensive:
When reviewing personalized license plate requests, Department of Revenue personnel research whether such requests are of an obscene nature, gang related or unacceptable for a similar reason. The Department uses tools like the online Urban Dictionary to help make this determination. If it is determined the request is unacceptable, it is denied.
State law prohibits the Department from issuing plates that are offensive or misleading. Tenn. Code Ann. Section 55-4-210(d) (2013) says the Department “shall refuse to issue any combination of letters, numbers or positions that may carry connotations offensive to good taste and decency or that are misleading.”
A person does have recourse if a plate request is denied, and he or she can ask the Department to reconsider. Ultimately, a person could file suit if a resolution is not found. Since the Department of Revenue took over the Vehicle Services Division from the Department of Safety in 2006, there have been no lawsuits filed regarding personalized license plate requests.