Anthony Bradford, of the Colonial Heights Sons of Confederate Veterans, holds a mock Virginia License plate and a Confederate flag as he and a group of protestors march outside the Attorney General's office in Richmond in 2001. (Steve Helber/AP)

The Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles said Thursday that the state will begin recalling the nearly 1,700 license plates that feature the Confederate flag after a federal judge vacated an injunction that required the state to offer such specialty plates.

U.S. District Judge Jackson L. Kiser issued a written order that formally invalidated his 2001 decision requiring Virginia to offer the plates to the Sons of Confederate Veterans. That ruling is no longer valid, Kiser said at a hearing last week, in light of a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision that said banning such license plates does not violate the First Amendment. The ruling from the bench was enough for state officials to say they would stop issuing the license plates, but they wanted to wait for a written ruling before moving to recall existing plates.

Spokesmen for the DMV and for state Attorney General Mark R. Herring said Thursday evening that the government would immediately begin the process of recalling the plates and issuing newly designed plates to those who want them. The officials said they did not know how long the process would take.

Fred Taylor, an attorney for the Sons of Confederate Veterans, said Kiser’s order does not require that the plates be recalled. If the state takes that step, he said, he expects that the group will challenge it.

(Jay Westcott)

Antonio Olivo contributed to this report.