She’s Had Her License Plate For 15 Years, But Now The State Is Saying It’s “Inappropriate”

A Gonic mother’s vanity licence plate has gotten her into hot water with the state Department of Motor Vehicles due to a frequent parental remark.

The state has requested that Wendy Auger, the bartender at Lilac City Grille, surrender her 15-year-old licence plate that says “PB4WEGO,” which is an acronym for “pee before we go,” since it contains language that is associated with excretory actions.

Because she thinks it’s a matter of free speech and the term isn’t objectionable, Auger is fighting it and has filed an appeal for the recall.

“Who has a mom or dad or parental figure who hasn’t said that to kids before leaving the house?” Auger asked. “I’m not the type to sit here with a picket, but come on.”

As of last week, Auger was one of 92 drivers in New Hampshire to receive recall letters for their vanity plates this year—as opposed to 111 during all of 2018. According to state data, there are 152,028 vanity plates in the Granite State overall.

According to a representative for the Department of Safety and the DMV, licence plates must be refused “when they do not conform to legal requirements” in accordance with the administrative guidelines established by the state Legislature. He claimed that there is a mechanism in place “to recall a plate should one be issued that should not have been.”

Wendy Lee Auger

The spokesman did clarify that state privacy regulations apply to car registrations, therefore the state was unable to comment on the circumstances of Auger’s case or the recall.

Auger asked why her plate was singled out, claiming to have never heard or received any complaints. Many have expressed support for Auger when she recently shared the plate on Facebook, pointing out that the recall seemed inconsistent with the state’s slogan, “Live Free Or Die,” which is printed directly below the banned phrase on the plate.

Auger, who frequently gets honks from other drivers and congratulations from people who take pictures of the licence plate because they think it’s hilarious, said, “It would just stink if I don’t have it anymore. If I have to take it off the plate, then I’m not going to be able to live free.”

The Augers family minivan previously had the PB4WEGO plate on it. When New Hampshire raised its character limit from six to seven, Auger said she “jumped on it” since she had desired it for a number of years and could fit the bill.

When Auger purchased a new car last year, she said she thought about getting rid of it, but she decided to transfer ownership when local DMV staff advised her to keep it. Auger noted that since the recall notice, she has heard from at least one DMV employee who said they would support her in opposing it because they thought the campaign against PB4WEGO was “absurd.”

When the state will make a decision on Auger’s appeal is unknown. The case is being reviewed by lawyers, according to an email the state delivered at the end of last week.

The email also notes that the rules “were forced to be changed years ago by the NH Supreme Court as a result of a court order and now the rules are very specific.” The email is probably referring to a separate Rochester vanity plate case that made news five years ago.

David Montenegro, a citizen of Rochester who has since lawfully changed his name to Human, won a case before the Supreme Court in 2014, arguing that the government’s refusal to provide him the “COPSLIE” plate would violate his First Amendment rights. He claimed that in order to protest what he sees as government corruption, he should be granted permission to keep the plate.

The Supreme Court justices decided that the regulation prohibiting obscene vanity plates was “unconstitutionally vague,” side with humanity in the plate’s issuance. This resulted in the replacement of previous administrative rules that only stated that the state might forbid any vanity plates that a “reasonable person would find offensive to good taste,” with new rules that included tougher and more precise exclusions.

Given that she was never informed what her plate meant prior to receiving the recall notification, Auger claims the new procedure still looks subjective to her. She might easily argue that the reference to peanut butter on her plate is a reference to prayer, but she won’t since she thinks “talking about peeing isn’t offensive.”

She questioned, “Where do you draw the line?”

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