Cop Fights State Agency For Right To Place '0INK' License Plate On His Own Vehicle

from the this-is-why-the-word-'humorless'-often-precedes-'bureaucrat' dept

Vehicle vanity plates are a form of expression -- albeit one often severely limited by the arbitrary decisions of state agencies. Last year, we covered a man's battle against New Hampshire's Dept. of Motor Vehicles for the right to be subjected to increased police harassment attach a "COPSLIE" license plate to his car. He won (but probably also lost), in part because his backup vanity plate application -- for a government-hugging "GR8GOVT" -- was approved by the agency.

This put to lie the agency's claim that it only forbade plates that would be "offensive" to a "reasonable person." Many more people would disagree with the sentiment that government is "great" than would find the thought of cops lying "offensive." It didn't help that the agency also pointed out in its rejection paperwork that individual employees found his "COPSLIE" plate insulting -- thereby inserting the agency as a proxy for the average New Hampshirean.

Now, the shoe's on the other foot (to a certain extent...) and the battle is being fought in a different state. First off, it's a cop who's being denied his request for a vanity plate. The common ingredient is a highly-arbitrary rejection process. Here's a very brief summary, from Martha Neil's article for the ABA Journal.

An Indiana cop may be on the verge of regaining his treasured 0INK vanity plate.

The state’s top court heard arguments Thursday on a class action pursued by Greenfield police officer Rodney Vawter, with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana, after his renewal application for the 0INK license plate was denied, the Associated Press reports.
Vawter, a rare self-effacing law enforcement officer, had the plate for three years before the state suddenly revoked it, claiming it was "offensive." Of course, the state seems to have no idea what is or isn't offensive, and simply rolls dice/throws darts/flips coins when dealing with vanity plate applications, as Tim Evans of the Indy Star pointed out earlier this year.
What's the difference between the words HATER and HATERS?

Nothing other than the letter "s" — unless you ask the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles.

The BMV denied a personalized license plate request for "HATER" but approved one that said "HATERS."

It also denied "SXY" but approved "BIGGSXY." "FOX LIES" was rejected, but "FOX NEWS" was given a thumbs-up. "CNCR SUX" was a no-no, but "WNTR SUX" was A-OK.
The ACLU, which is representing Vawter in his license plate battle, found even more examples of the impossible (and impossibly flexible) "standard" the state's Bureau of Motor Vehicles applies to plate applications.
Ken Falk, the ACLU's legal director, cited plates the BMV has allowed that also might be deemed offensive, such as "BLK JEW," ''HATE" and "FOXY GMA."
It's this sort of thing that led to a county Superior Court judge declaring the BMV's inconsistent policy unconstitutional back in May. Nevertheless, the state's Solicitor General says the BMV retains the right to reject "offensive messages" -- which apparently covers Vawter's joking self-disparagement. It's taking this all the way to the state's Supreme Court. And rather than approve the "UNHOLY" license plate requested by a KISS fan (after approving others like "BIBLE4ME" and "GODTHANKS"), the BMV has simply chosen to stop issuing vanity plates until the Supreme Court makes a final decision.

Quite obviously, Vawter's plate would offend roughly zero people -- certainly far fewer than other plates the agency has issued. The fact that Vawter had the plate for three years before the BMV decided to claw it back only adds to general untrustworthiness of the BMV's slippery approval process. As it stands, the system is obviously (and almost flagrantly) unconstitutional. Hopefully, the state Supreme Court will make a final determination and force the BMV to give Vawter back his in-joke/vanity plate. And hopefully this determination will curb the number of rejections handed out by overly-sensitive bureaucrats with more power than skin thickness.

Filed Under: 01nk, free speech, indiana, license plates, new hampshire, police
Companies: aclu


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  • icon
    afn29129 (profile), 3 Sep 2015 @ 4:07am

    Down on the farm

    OINK is the sound that pigs make and that's offensive.
    MOO is the sound that cattle make, is that offensive as well?
    NEIGH, WOOF, QUACK, etc.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      David, 3 Sep 2015 @ 4:13am

      Re: Down on the farm

      OINK is the sound that pigs make and the guy is a cop. Had that license plate be forced on him, I think he'd have a pretty good case to get it changed.

      But that's not exactly what has been happening here.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        tqk (profile), 3 Sep 2015 @ 7:02am

        Re: Re: Down on the farm

        OINK is the sound that pigs make and the guy is a cop.

        I wonder what would have happened if he raised pigs or had a pet pig, or was a Porky Pig fan. Stupid system. I thought they only concerned themselves with obscenities and racism, as in objectionable stuff.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Thrudd, 3 Sep 2015 @ 5:26am

    plates in general

    Here in my locale plates are now 4 letters 3 digits. They are already into the late B series and as far as I know all the combinations in the sequence have been issued. I have seen a BUTT as well as an AFRO yet the same stupidity on custom plates happens here until the ministry gets called on it in the media.
    Same story but different profession in that a pastor had his long standing plates rejected when he needed to replace them. I REV.... was considered to promote street racing.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Ninja (profile), 3 Sep 2015 @ 5:38am

      Re: plates in general

      AFRO would be awesome *_*

      Knowing English from the depths of 4chan I recently asked to have my new car assigned with other letters. They were gonna give me a plate with the letters FAG. I giggled a little over the possibilities I'd see on the streets and asked if they could please choose another set of letters ;)

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 3 Sep 2015 @ 8:50am

        Re: Re: plates in general

        ...They were gonna give me a plate with the letters FAG....

        Understandable in the US. Outside the US does it have the same defiinition? PISS is another sequence most US jurisdictions won't allow, but in Australia that word has a completely different meaning.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 3 Sep 2015 @ 5:36am

    So we learn that the barn is off limits in Indiana roads?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Sep 2015 @ 6:19am

    I find the HATTER quite offensive. Esp. combined with MARCH HARE.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Oblate (profile), 3 Sep 2015 @ 7:16am

    Easy way around this

    If he has no tattoos, he could request the plate "0INK" (zero + INK). Not a statement pro or con about tattoos, just stating he doesn't have one. Nothing offensive about that, right?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Sep 2015 @ 7:45am

    Well my motor vehicle branch would not let me have PHAQ.

    Just sound it out, it will make sense soon enough.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 Sep 2015 @ 8:21am

      Response to: Anonymous Coward on Sep 3rd, 2015 @ 7:45am

      In Vegas there is a car with LOVEGUN. I guess no one at the DMV it's a KISS fan

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      tqk (profile), 3 Sep 2015 @ 1:14pm

      Re:

      Well my motor vehicle branch would not let me have PHAQ.

      Looks like someone doesn't know how to spell the acronym for Frequently Asked Questions.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    PRMan, 3 Sep 2015 @ 10:56am

    BIBLE4ME and GODTHANKS

    Since when does New Hampshire allow 8 and 9 character plates?

    The only state that allows 8 character plates currently is New York.

    This just smacks of anti-Christian bias in this article for absolutely no reason.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    GEMont, 7 Sep 2015 @ 8:37pm

    When honesty fails, Lie yer ass off.

    Silly copper, change it to 0ink

    - that's a ZERO in front of the word INK,

    so then you can tell the idiots who approve of license plates that its - wait for it...........

    ....an anti-tattoo slogan.......

    *** Zero Ink ***

    Instant approval!!!

    ---

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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