California drivers may get to express themselves with a little more color and creativity on their license plates. A U.S. District Court judge ruled the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles vague rules on what can and can’t appear on license plates violated drivers’ free speech rights.

According to the Pacific Legal Foundation, which litigated the case:

…a federal judge ruled that the California Department of Motor Vehicles’ restriction of personalized license plates that it considers “offensive to good taste and decency” is unconstitutional.

Chris Ogilvie applied for a personalized license plate reading “OGWOOLF,” a reference to Ogilvie’s nickname in the military. The DMV rejected his application on the grounds that “OG” means “original gangster,” which the DMV said was offensive to good taste and decency.

“This is a great day for our clients and the 250,000 Californians that seek to express their messages on personalized license plates each year,” said PLF attorney Wen Fa. “Vague bans on offensive speech allow bureaucrats to inject their subjective preferences and undermine the rule of law.”

Similar mission creep occurs in a host of areas. While personalized license plates may not be the free speech issue of our time, if they serve as the means for pushing back state censors, even a little, that’s a win for liberty.

Image Credit: By Henri Sivonen from Helsinki, Finland (flickr: California State Capitol) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons