This is in response to your letter dated December 13, 2007, regarding the spacing of your Amateur Radio (HAM) call letters on your leicnse
California Vehicle Code Section 5005 allows the Department of Motor Vehicles to issue special plates in lieu of the regular license
plates to a vehicle owned by persons holding an Amateur Radio license issued by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). These special license plates display the official Amateur Radio call letters of the applicant as assigned by the FCC.
The Department has been issuing HAM license plates since 1953 when
the statute was first enacted. The placement or spacing of letters and numbers composed of the HAM license was originally determined by the FCC. Although the department is required by law to issue HAM license plates with specific call letters, spacing is not addressed in the statute and the department can exercise its administrative
authority in this regard.
The Department adopted the spacing in order for law enforcement to differentiate between HAM license plates and other series license plates. Unlike other states, California does not distinguish the HAM license plates with a symbol or wording indicating the plate is a HAM plate.
In April 2007, it was brought to our attention that the HAM license plates were being ordered and issued without the proper spacing. The problem has since been corrected; however, those HAM plates issued with no spaces will remain valid until the plates are lost or damaged and duplicates are requested. The Department has received several
complaints, regarding the spacing of HAM license plates ordered by
applicants. Thoughts of eliminating the spaces have been reviewed, but we must take into consideration the other series license plates and the distinction that HAM license plates will no longer have.
MARIO BALBIANI, Program Manager
Registration Policy Development
Department OF Motor Vehicles
Registration Operations Division
P.O. Box 825393
Sacramento, CA 94232-5393