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Spanish Word At The Center of License Plate Free Speech Debate in Md.

BALTIMORE (WJZ)--Maryland courts have made a ruling about vanity license plates and just how far drivers can go when it comes to expressing themselves on their cars.

When John Mitchell ordered personalized plates for his '98 BMW seven years ago, what he didn't expect was a complaint and a court case.

"I've seen people give me thumbs up and smile and wave and take pictures," said Mitchell.

The plates are in Spanish and the direct English translation: S**T.

Mitchell -- who grew up speaking Spanish--tells WJZ it has a deeper meaning.

"It's multiple meanings and it's a very rich word that's used in all kinds of ways," Mitchell said.

Still, the Court of Appeals of Maryland just ruled the plates could offend some Spanish speakers.

The plates have yet to come off and won't, Mitchell says, until he runs out of legal options.

This isn't the first time the law has put the brakes on vanity plates.

In February, a Minnesota man was forced to surrender a plate with an "F" in front of an abbreviation for "Muslims."

Mitchell, who is an attorney, wants to set a precedent in Maryland.

"It's not so important now for me to keep my tags, as it is to correct the law because the ruling in my case could be used to muzzle someone else's speech," said Mitchell.

The Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration has not replied to WJZ's request for comment.

Mitchell has 90 days to decide if he'll request a review of the court's decision.

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