Judge Sides With Policeman On “0ink” Plate

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May 8, 2014 — Indiana Public Broadcasting –The Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles must immediately reinstate its personalized license plate program according to a Marion County Superior Court ruling. As Indiana Public Broadcasting’s Brandon Smith reports, the ruling stems from charges that the program unconstitutionally restricts free speech:

Greenfield police officer Rodney Vawter wanted to put “0INK” on his Fraternal Order of Police license plate. The BMV denied his request so Vawter filed a lawsuit against the state agency. During the lawsuit, the BMV suspended its personalized plate program, barring all new applications. American Civil Liberties Union-Indiana’s legal director Ken Falk, who represented Vawter and others, says there are two violations – first, the BMV isn’t authorized to suspend the legislatively-created program. And second, he says, the BMV’s personalized plate standards are too vague:

And when you’re dealing with First Amendment expression – and a personalized license plate is expression under the First Amendment – there has to be clear standards or else you have arbitrary decision making.”

Falk says examples of arbitrary decisions include the BMV rejecting plates such as “NOBAMA” and “SEXYGRMA” while allowing “GOBAMA” and “FOXYGRMA.” The court’s ruling orders the BMV to reinstate the program and create new, clearer standards. The BMV could not be reached for comment.


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