Using State License Plates on Official
TO: ALL UNITED STATES ATTORNEYS ALL FIRST ASSISTANT
UNITED STATES ATTORNEYS ALL ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICER ALL DISTRICT
OFFICE SECURITY MANAGERS|
FROM: Carol DiBattiste Director
SUBJECT: Using State License Plates on Official Government Vehicles
CONTACT PERSON: Joan M. Benson, Assistant Director
Facilities Management and Support Services (202) 616-6425 or
Robert Marcovici, Office of Legal Counsel (202)514-4024
This memorandum responds to an increase in requests received from United
States Attorneys' offices (USAOs) to replace government license plates with
state license plates on official government vehicles.
Some districts have expressed concern that the use of state license
plates may expose the government to liability in case of accidents or
require the government to purchase automobile insurance in no-fault
automobile insurance states when it would not otherwise have to do so. The
Office of Legal Counsel, Executive Office for United States Attorneys
(EOUSA), has concluded that the use of state license plates on federal
government vehicles appears to have no impact concerning state no-fault laws
and/or the requirement to purchase insurance coverage.
Acquiring state license plates for your government vehicle may not
always be possible, as not all state laws will allow the assignment of state
license plates to federal agencies. For instance, the motor vehicle agency
of Nebraska has recently declined to do so.
The general requirements for vehicle registration, identification, and
exemptions are contained in 41 C.F.R. 101-38.200 et seq. Under
101-38.202-6, all government vehicles are required to display official
government license plates, unless an exemption applies. An exemption
contained in 101-38.200(f) and (g) permits an agency head or designee to
decide that "conspicuous identification will interfere with the purpose for
which the motor vehicle is used."
The Justice Management Division (JMD) is the Department's designee in
deciding exemption requests. The decision must be certified to the General
Services Administration (GSA) and reported under 101-38.204-4. JMD has
interpreted this to mean that if there is a legitimate, specific security
risk, state license plates may be used. JMD has also stated that an
exemption will be granted based on whether the identification of the vehicle
would interfere with the purpose for which the exemption was acquired, or
endanger the security of the individuals operating the vehicle or the United
States Government. Generalized assertions of perceptions of danger or
vulnerability do not meet the requisite standard for exemption. Letters of
justification signed by the United States Attorney should outline specific
threats that our personnel may face in the district. Districts that have
active and violent drug gangs, militias, or other anti-government groups
that have made a direct, documented
threat to federal officials should specifically cite such threats in their
letters of justification.
The following procedures and standards apply to all USAOs seeking to
change some or all of the government license plates to state license plates
on the official government vehicles assigned to their district.
- The USAO's administrative office should submit requests to Joan
Benson, Assistant Director, Facilities Management and Support Services
(FMSS), EOUSA, for review and approval. The request should contain
justification and be consistent with the regulations stated above. The
justification should be specific, consisting of more than generalized
perceptions of vulnerability.
- The FMSS will consult with EOUSA's Security Programs Staff concerning
- EOUSA will notify the USAO of approval, and forward the approved
requests to JMD for transmittal to and coordination with either GSA, or the
leasing companies. GSA will contact the state motor vehicle agency for
vehicles leased through GSA and either acquire the state license plates and
forward them to the USAO, or they will advise the USAO to contact the state
agency directly to acquire the license plates. The JMD will coordinate the
acquisition of license plates for all commercially leased vehicles through
the leasing companies.
- Requests denied will be returned to the USAO with an explanatory
Questions regarding these new procedures may be addressed to Joan
Benson, Assistant Director, FMSS, on (202) 616-6425.
[added February 1998]
[cited in USAM 3-13.530]