Diplomatic license plates

While tooling around Kennebunk yesterday, I was behind a minivan with consular license plates. I found this site that explains that the plates are issued by the US Department of State and that the initial C of the license number stands for “Consular”. The number was (I think) CVH 128. Is this some kind of code that will tell me what country it was?

I’m guessing it was a consul from some Boston or New York consulate attending the birthday parties of George and Barbara Bush last weekend in Kennebunkport. Just a guess.

I don’t know about the U.S., but in every other country I have been in you could tell what country dips were from by the number on their license plate. For example, in Zaire CD1 was the Vatican State. In Indonesia, CD60 is the Netherlands.

The CD in diplomatic plates is common in many countries and stands for Corps Diplomatique. Just thought I’d mention that.

Watch out for cars with those plates. If one of those cars runs you over, it is perfectly legal.

Yeah, right. Where would that be legal? Not in any country I can think of.

Perhaps not legal, but if you have diplomatic status you can’t be prosecuted. I remember a case in England where two diplomats were involved in the murder of a prostitute. All they got was a slap on the wrist and then they were sent home.


Ah, I see what was meant. If memory serves me correctly, there was a Russian doplomat a few years ago that killed a girl whilst driving drunk in Washington DC. But I think he even lost his job over that.

I know there is such a thing as diplomatic immunity, but I find it hard to believe that it stretches to the realm of proven murder. Do you have a link, Floater?

I found the story I was talking about. It appears to have been a Georgian diplomat. Georgia allowed his diplomatic immunity to be lifted for him to be sentenced. That implies he would not have been sentenced otherwise, right?

Any legal knowledge on board, guys?

Well it’s only a related matter, but I read some time ago about several poorer countries in the UN occupying office space in DC without the means to pay for them. The upshot was that the countries were broke but the diplomats could not be evicted due to their status.

I think diplomatic status and the immunities involved are covered here, but unfortuantely I don’t have time to read it all! It’s the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Protocols.

That Georgian diplomat case was an incredible case.
[li]The diplomat was plastered, as witnesses testified. But the cops couldn’t take a Breathalizer test at the scene.[/li][li]On the stretch of road that the accident occurred, I’ve never been able to go much faster than 30 MPH. Yet this guy was going fast enough to launch the first car he hit up in the air. IIRC, this car landed on the teenager’s car, killing her.[/li][li]The Georgian government was incredible in lifting his diplomatic status. Most other countries would’ve just taken him home and let the case languish in international court for years.[/li][li]Sadly, some American in Georgia was involved in an auto accident (not DUI-related) and had the book thrown at him[/li][/ul]


Diplomatic Immunity

It is a long document, Article 31 says:

  1. A diplomatic agent shall enjoy immunity from the criminal jurisdiction of the receiving State. He shall also enjoy immunity from its civil and administrative jurisdiction, except in the case of:

(a) a real action relating to private immovable property situated in the territory of the receiving State, unless he holds it on behalf of the sending State for the purposes of the mission;
(b) an action relating to succession in which the diplomatic agent is involved as executor, administrator, heir or legatee as a private person and not on behalf of the sending State;
© an action relating to any professional or commercial activity exercised by the diplomatic agent in the receiving State outside his official functions.

  1. A diplomatic agent is not obliged to give evidence as a witness.

Among other things…

Interestingly, it would appear from this site that it is possible to purchase a diplomatic passport. This seems incredulous.

As for telling what country a dip if from by his plate: yes, it can be done. Supposedly, CIA agents carry a card listing the plate codes for all the “problem” nations, like Iran, Syria, etc. Someone (Cecil?, David Feldman?, William Poundstone?) published this list in one of his books. Unfortunately, all of those books are at my parents house, so I can’t find the list now.

The plate in question in the OP is from the Swiss Consulate.

The first letter of the plate (with a different background color) is either a “C” (foreign consul), “D” (diplomat), or “S” (non-diplomatic staff).

The second two letters stand for the country. Here’s a list of those codes. “VH” is for Switzerland.

The number is just a serial number.

It’s understandable that average citizens don’t know the codes for these plates. What is amazing is that the DC Police didn’t know this. They’d been getting complaints from residents that some diplomatic vehicles had been parked in their neighborhood for months without moving. (Even bona fide residents can’t leave a car in the same spot indefinately.) The DC cops said they couldn’t do anything because they didn’t know what country’s embassy to contact.

Amongst my friends at State in the late 80’s, the “FC” code for Soviet diplomats was something of an inside joke. Allegedly, the State Department issued that code to the Soviets, the code meaning “Fucking Commies”.

I, for one, was heartened to see the maturity of the people whose job it was to keep us out of war. :wink: