Judge in '0INK' Case: Plate Rules Make No Sense

Indiana court orders state to clarify guidelines

By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff

Posted May 9, 2014 9:32 AM CDT

(Newser) – Quick, which of these license plates was approved and which rejected in Indiana: HATER or HATERS? You probably couldn't tell, and that, along with a host of other similar seemingly random discrepancies, led a judge to yesterday declare the state's system for approving personalized plates unconstitutional, the Indy Star reports. Police officer Rodney Vawter sued the Indiana BMV when it refused to renew his previously approved "0INK" plate—a winking reference to his profession. The ACLU took the case, and made it a class action suit.

The ACLU brought up a slew of seemingly contradictory decisions. For example: "FOXYGMA," "GOBAMA," "FOX NEWS" and "BLKJEW" were all approved, while "SEXYGMA," "NOBAMA," "FOX LIES" and "JEWJEW" were all denied. "The First Amendment prevents arbitrary decision making when it comes to expression," an ACLU official said. The court agreed, saying that the BMV "was unable to explain the seeming inconsistencies." It ordered it to reinstate the personalized plate system—which it suspended when Vawter filed his suit—and to establish clear rules for future reviews. In the meantime, "0INK" is good to go.

This plate was almost rejected, for being offensive to the average hoosier, according to a Flickr commenter who claims to be the owner. He was trying to involve the ACLU when the BMV relented.
This plate was almost rejected, for being "offensive to the average hoosier," according to a Flickr commenter who claims to be the owner. He was trying to involve the ACLU when the BMV relented.   (Flickr/Steve Baker)
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