Iowa DOT News

Iowa DOT issuance of special license plates with processed emblems

AMES, Iowa – April 27, 2012 – The Iowa Department of Transportation seeks to clarify the process used and laws associated with issuance of special license plates with processed emblems.

Iowa law provides three methods for issuance of special license plates with a processed emblem. 

  1. The Iowa DOT can be directed by the legislature to produce a special plate. The legislature determines the eligibility criteria, and directs the recipient and use of the funds generated by the purchase of legislatively established plates.
  2. A state agency may sponsor a special emblem plate. A portion of the fees for these plates is deposited into a special license plate fund for use as directed by the state agency. The balance of the funds is deposited into the Road Use Tax Fund.
  3. Any organization may sponsor a special emblem plate. To do so, the organization must submit an application to the Iowa DOT requesting issuance of special plates using their proposed emblem. If the application is properly submitted and the proposed emblem meets the legal standards for a special emblem, the application will be approved. The applicant must submit 500 paid special plate applications to the Iowa DOT before the new plate will be manufactured and issued. All funds for the sale of these plates are deposited into the Iowa Road Use Tax Fund. The Iowa DOT's approval of a special emblem or issuance of a plate under this process does not constitute an endorsement by the Iowa DOT of the organization, its views or opinions.

The legal standards for the special emblem are set forth in the Iowa Administrative Code. Under those standards, the special emblem cannot have any sexual connotation, nor shall it be vulgar, prejudiced, hostile, insulting, or racially or ethnically degrading. The Iowa DOT's review of the content of the special emblem is limited to a determination of whether the special emblem meets these criteria, and is otherwise viewpoint neutral.

The Iowa DOT recently approved an application for a special plate that will feature the “Choose Life” emblem. The application was submitted by Iowa Right to Life, under the administrative option for organizations. Iowa Right to Life is now gathering the required 500 prepaid license plate applications from Iowans. The group has one year to gather the necessary applications. If 500 applications are received, then the Iowa DOT will begin manufacturing and issuing the plates. If the required number of applications is not received within a year, the department may cancel its approval of the application or grant an extension.


Contact: Mark Lowe, director, Motor Vehicle Division, 515-402-3986 or



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