New Brunswick

Wendell Maxwell wins court case over his DUI DR licence plate

A Moncton lawyer who specializes in impaired driving cases has successfully taken the province's registrar of motor vehicles to court over the seizure of his DUI DR personalized licence plate.

Moncton lawyer took registrar of motor vehicles to court after his personalized plate was revoked

A Moncton lawyer, who specializes in impaired driving cases, has successfully taken the province's registrar of motor vehicles to court over the seizure of his DUI DR personalized licence plate.

A provincial court judge has ordered the provincial government to return the seized plate to Wendell Maxwell and pay him $5,000 in legal costs.

"I feel strongly because it describes what I do," said Maxwell.

"It's my profession, my work. It takes up most of my law practice, defending impaired driving cases."

Lawyer Wendell Maxwell went to court to keep his "DUI DR" vanity plate, and won 5:52

Maxwell says he defended his first impaired driving case in 1969.

"It's part of me. It's part of who I am," he said.

"It's not racist. It doesn't attack anybody's religion. It merely describes what I do for a living."

He was issued the DUI DR licence plate in 2008, but he recently received a notice from the registrar of motor vehicles stating the plates had been issued "erroneously" and he could no longer use them.

Maxwell says his plates where seized through "a covert operation" involving commercial vehicle enforcement officers one day while he was in court.

- Wendell Maxwell, lawyer

The court heard there were complaints about the DUI DR plate, including one for the parents of a child who had been killed by a drunk driver.

"My plate has nothing to do with promoting drinking and driving," said Maxwell.

"I don't condone drinking and driving. I don't condone murder. I don't condone break and enters. I don't condone any criminal activity. All my plate does is describe what I do for a living."

Maxwell has paid the associated fees for keeping the vanity plate since 2008.

"I've had the plate on my truck for over six and half years, no problem. And I paid my annual fees, registration. There never was any problem."

New Brunswick's application form for a personalized plate states requests involving "words or symbols socially unacceptable, offensive, not in good taste, or implying an official authority" are not acceptable for use on a plate.

Vanity plate controversies

This is not the first time that the New Brunswick government has stumbled into a controversy over vanity licence plates.

In 2008, Sharon Thorne of Quispamsis wanted to put her maiden name — Weed — on the plate of her 2001 Mustang. But the provincial government blocked that because it is also slang for marijuana.

Earlier this year, Norm Moore decided to change his vanity plate — Redskin —  because some found it to be racially offensive. Moore picked the plate 12 years ago because that is the nickname of his favourite National Football League team.

And in 2013, the Department of Public Safety recalled all licence plates that had the letter combination of "JAP." "Jap" is a derogatory nickname for Japanese people. It was used extensively during the Second World War.

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