The Indiana Supreme Court ruled today that the state's Bureau of Motor Vehicles does not violate drivers' First Amendment rights by denying and revoking personalized license plates, including one proposed by a police officer that read, "0INK."
License plates, the court ruled, are a form of government speech, and dovetails a September ruling by the Supreme Court supporting the state of Texas rejecting "Sons of Confederate Veterans" vanity plates, which bore the image of the Confederate flag.
The court reversed a lower court's ruling in May 2014 that stemmed from a lawsuit filed by Greenfield, Ind., police officer Rodney Vawter and the ACLU of Indiana after he attempted to get a new "0INK" vanity plate to replace his old "0INK" license plate.
The ACLU argued that license plates are understood as forms of personal speech, pointing to plates reading, "BIGGSXY," "FOXYLDY," and "BLKJEW," had all been issued in the state before without contest. More from the Indianapolis Star:
Ken Falk, the nonprofit's legal director, said the agency needs to have more precise standards for reviewing and approving personalized license plates. Falk said current standards, which are so "malleable" that they produce "diametrically inconsistent results," violate the Due Process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
The justices considered the argument moot because they had already determined that license plates are government speech.
The BMV had halted it's personalized license plate program in 2013 while waiting for this case to be adjudicated. According to the Star, the ACLU has 90 days to decide whether or not it will appeal the ruling.
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