The department shall develop a special license plate honoring the family members of servicemembers who have been killed while serving in the Armed Forces of the United States. The license plate shall be officially designated as the Gold Star license plate and shall be developed and issued as provided in this section.
(1) The Gold Star license plate must bear the colors and design approved by the department in cooperation with supporters of the license plate. The word “Florida” must appear at the top of the plate, and the words “Gold Star Family” must appear at the bottom of the plate. The plate shall bear a unique design that includes the symbol for a fallen servicemember, a gold star with blue fringe on a white background with a red border. The symbol shall be no larger than 3 inches by 3 inches and shall be placed in a conspicuous place to the left of the identifying number of the plate, which identifying number shall consist of no more than six alphanumeric characters.
(2) This section shall not be implemented until such time as the state has, through a licensing agreement or otherwise, received such license or other permission as may be required to implement this section. The designs of the initial and subsequent editions of the Gold Star license plate, except any part of the designs owned by others and licensed to the state, shall be owned solely by the state for its exclusive use and control, except as authorized by the department. The department may take such steps as may be necessary to give notice of and protect such right, including the copyright or copyrights. However, such steps shall be cumulative of the ownership and exclusive use and control established by this subsection as a matter of law, and no person shall reproduce or otherwise use such designs except as authorized by the department.
(3)(a) Each owner or lessee of an automobile or truck for private use, truck weighing not more than 7,999 pounds, or recreational vehicle as specified in s. 320.08(9)(c) or (d), which automobile, truck, or vehicle is not used for hire or commercial use, who is a resident of this state, and who meets the qualifications provided in subsection (4) shall, upon application therefor to the department and payment of the license tax and appropriate fees established in this chapter, be issued a Gold Star license plate. Each initial application for a Gold Star license plate must be accompanied by proof that the applicant meets the requirements provided in subsection (4).
(b) The surviving spouse and a surviving parent meeting the requirements in subsection (4) shall each, upon application therefor, be issued the Gold Star license plate for one vehicle per household free of charge. Renewal decals for the plate issued under this paragraph shall be issued at no cost.
(4)(a)1.a. The Gold Star license plate shall be issued only to family members of a servicemember who resided in Florida at the time of the death of the servicemember.
b. Any family member, as defined in subparagraph 2., of a servicemember killed while serving may be issued a Gold Star license plate upon payment of the license tax and appropriate fees as provided in paragraph (3)(a) without regard to the state of residence of the servicemember.
2. To qualify for issuance of a Gold Star license plate, the applicant must be directly related to a fallen servicemember as spouse, legal mother or father, or stepparent who is currently married to the mother or father of the fallen servicemember.
3. A servicemember is deemed to have been killed while in service as listed by the United States Department of Defense and may be verified from documentation directly from the Department of Defense or from its subordinate agencies, such as the Coast Guard, Reserve, or National Guard.
(b) The applicant must provide documentation of the fact that the servicemember was killed while serving and proof of relationship to the servicemember to the tax collector or license plate agent before being issued a Gold Star license plate. The tax collector or license plate agent may waive the requirement for such documentation and proof if he or she has actual knowledge of the family relationship and that the servicemember was killed while serving.
(5) An eligible family member may request a Gold Star license plate at any time during his or her registration period. If such a license plate is to replace a current valid license plate, the license plate shall be issued with appropriate renewal decals attached.