Tesla Owner Challenges DMV's Attempt to Censor Vanity Plate

The Tesla Model 3 owner claims — against Rhode Island DMV — that the all-electric sedan's vanity plate is supposed to mean "fake gas."
Brad Bergan

In Rhode Island, a Tesla Model 3 owner was given legal support from the American Civil Liberties Union following a move to recall the all-electric sedan's vanity plate from the state's Division of Motor Vehicles, reports Teslarati.

The plate reads "FKGAS."


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A suit filed on Thursday showed the ACLU arguing that the DMV breached the Tesla owner's right to free speech in trying to "censor" the Model 3's vanity plate.

The owner of the Model 3 in the suit — named Sean M. Carroll — said the idea behind his vehicle's vanity plate came following a conversation with his daughter, according to Teslarati. As a clean energy enthusiast, his home is installed with a residential solar system. When he explained that his family's Model 3 runs on solar power, his daughter added that the car runs on "fake gas."

This is how, so the story goes, he arrived at "FKGAS."

"'FKGAS' is my personal statement challenging everyone to look at the world differently. Gas isn't the only option when it comes to powering your vehicle. My choice for a vanity plate has already brought more attention to alternative fuel sources and electric vehicles," said Carroll in a statement to The Providence Journal.

Rhode Island DMV issued two Model 3 vanity plates

It's interesting to note that the DMV issued the vanity plate to the Model 3 owner not once, but twice. The DMV only chose to recall the electric sedan's plate after receiving an anonymous complaint, citing "inappropriate language." To Thomas W. Lyons, the Tesla owner's legal representation and cooperating attorney at ACLU, the DMV's shifting position qualifies as political censorship.

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"The DMV twice issued the license plate 'FKGAS' to Mr. Carroll and he drove his Tesla for over five months with that plate on it making his political statement. No one complained. Now, after one unknown person complained for some unknown reason, the Defendant has decided the plate is 'inappropriate and/or offensive.' This looks like political censorship," wrote Lyons in a statement emailed to The Providence Journal.

All-electric sedan remains licensed with "FKGAS"

At the moment, the ACLU seeks a temporary restraining order, to prevent the Rhode Island DMV from canceling Carroll's Model 3 registration. The ACLU is also pushing for the court to strike down a Rhode Island law allowing the DMV to refuse plates that "might carry connotations offensive to good taste and decency."

As things stand, the advantage seems to be on the side of the Tesla owner and the ACLU. Saturday was a deadline for Carroll to turn in his Model 3's vanity plate to the DMV, but the state attorney general has so far allowed the Tesla owner to remain in possession of his vanity plate. "Mr. Carroll can keep his license plate for the time being," said a DMV lawyer, according to Teslarati.

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