A Tesla Model 3 owner from Rhode Island has received legal support from the American Civil Liberties Union after the state’s Division of Motor Vehicles moved to recall the all-electric sedan’s vanity plate. In a suit filed on Thursday, the ACLU argued that the DMV was breaching the Tesla owner’s right to free speech by attempting to “censor” the Model 3’s vanity plate, which reads “FKGAS.”
Sean M. Carroll, the owner of the Model 3 in question, explained that the idea behind his vehicle’s vanity plate came after a conversation with his daughter. Carroll is a clean energy enthusiast, and his home is equipped with a residential solar system. When the Tesla owner explained that their Model 3 runs on solar power, his daughter remarked that the car runs on “fake gas.” Hence, the “FKGAS” vanity plate was born.
“‘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,” he said in a statement to The Providence Journal.
Interestingly enough, the DMV actually issued the vanity plate twice to the Model 3 owner. It was only after the office received an anonymous complaint about the vehicle that the DMV decided to recall the all-electric sedan’s plate, citing “inappropriate language.” For Thomas W. Lyons, an ACLU cooperating attorney who is representing the Tesla owner, this sudden change of heart from the DMV reeks of political censorship.
“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,” Lyons wrote in an emailed statement to the publication.
The ACLU is currently seeking a temporary restraining order that would prevent the Rhode Island DMV from canceling Carroll’s registration for his Model 3. The organization is also asking the court to strike down a state law that allows the DMV to refuse plates that “might carry connotations offensive to good taste and decency.”
So far, the Tesla owner and his ACLU counsel seem to be on favorable ground. Saturday was supposed to be the deadline for Carroll to turn in his Model 3’s vanity plate to the DMV, but as of writing, the Rhode Island AG has allowed the Tesla owner to keep his plate for now. “Mr. Carroll can keep his license plate for the time being,” a lawyer for the DMV noted.