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EOUSA Resource Manual

151. Using State License Plates on Official Government Vehicles



FROM: Carol DiBattiste


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 AEX11!JBENSON

Robert Marcovici, Office of Legal Counsel
(202)514-4024 or AEX13!RMARCOVI

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.

  1. 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.
  2. The FMSS will consult with EOUSA's Security Programs Staff concerning the request.
  3. 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.
  4. Requests denied will be returned to the USAO with an explanatory memorandum.

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]