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Judge orders Indiana BMV to resume selling plates

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The Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles must resume issuing personalized license plates, a Marion County judge ordered Wednesday, but that doesn't mean it'll happen in the near future.

Judge James Osborn denied the state's request that he stay his May ruling, which ordered it to resume selling vanity plates, BMV spokesman Josh Gillespie and the Indiana attorney general's office said. But the bureau informed the Indiana Supreme Court on July 7 it intends to appeal Osborn's ruling and also asked it to stay the lower-court order, meaning that the issue is not yet resolved.

The BMV had suspended the plates' sales in July 2013, after Greenfield Police Officer Rodney Vawter sued the bureau for revoking his license plate that read "0INK."

Osborn found the BMV violated Vawter's freedom of speech and also found the system for issuing the plates unconstitutional. He said that the BMV has no formal regulations in place for evaluating the content of vanity plates and ordered it to create standards that meet constitutional requirements within six months.

Osborn ruled that the BMV violated some vanity plate applicants' free speech rights by turning down some requests while allowing others. For example, the agency revoked an "UNHOLY" vanity plate but allowed vanity plates such as "B HOLY" and "HOLYONE."

The BMV cited a state statute that allowed it to refuse to issue a plate when officials deem it carries "a connotation offensive to good taste and decency" or that "would be misleading." The state agency also argues Osborn's May ruling rewrote the rules and would force it to allow offensive plates that might insult ethnic groups.

But the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana, which represents Vawter, contends in legal documents that the BMV is still allowed to deny plates that are defamatory, vulgar or could incite violence. Ken Falk, legal director of the ACLU of Indiana, said Wednesday he doesn't believe the grounds for a stay have been met.

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  1. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  2. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

  3. I will agree with that as soon as law schools stop lying to prospective students about salaries and employment opportunities in the legal profession. There is no defense to the fraudulent numbers first year salaries they post to mislead people into going to law school.

  4. The sad thing is that no fish were thrown overboard The "greenhorn" who had never fished before those 5 days was interrogated for over 4 hours by 5 officers until his statement was illicited, "I don't want to go to prison....." The truth is that these fish were measured frozen off shore and thawed on shore. The FWC (state) officer did not know fish shrink, so the only reason that these fish could be bigger was a swap. There is no difference between a 19 1/2 fish or 19 3/4 fish, short fish is short fish, the ticket was written. In addition the FWC officer testified at trial, he does not measure fish in accordance with federal law. There was a document prepared by the FWC expert that said yes, fish shrink and if these had been measured correctly they averaged over 20 inches (offshore frozen). This was a smoke and mirror prosecution.

  5. I love this, Dave! Many congrats to you! We've come a long way from studying for the bar together! :)

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