Indiana motorists will have the option of getting a personalized vanity license plate for the first time in nearly three years this week when the Bureau of Motor Vehicles resumes the program.
The BMV stopped its Personalized License Plate program in 2013 following a lawsuit by a Greenfield police officer and the American Civil Liberties Union against the state after the officer was denied a personalized plate that read "0INK." But Indiana's high court in November affirmed the BMV's authority to deny personalized plate requests, ruling that state-issued license plates are deemed government speech and therefore not constitutionally protected free speech. A previous U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Texas also came to the same conclusion.
After the November ruling, the BMV did not confirm whether the program would return — until Monday's announcement that personalized plates will be issued starting Friday.
"I am pleased that we are able to return this very popular program to the public," BMV Commissioner Kent Abernathy said in a statement.
Abernathy said it took time to prepare for the coming influx of applications.
"We wanted to make sure it was implemented correctly," he said. "We wanted to make sure we had all the processes in place in being able to handle the anticipated volume and we do it in a fair and accurate way."
Abernathy said the guidelines for the revamped program will be taken straight from a state statute that says the BMV can deny any plate that "carries a connotation offensive to good taste and decency."
For Indiana license plates, registrants have eight characters to customize with letters and numbers for passenger vehicles and six characters for motorcycles. Abernathy said the bureau has also revamped the application forms.
Customers registering new vehicles or renewing their registration will be able to apply for a personalized license plate either online or at a BMV branch. Those who currently have personalized plates can also renew them or apply for new ones.