BMV battling against ACLU over personalized license plates

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Aug. 27, 2015) – There is a big debate over what Hoosiers are and are not allowed to put on license plates. The Supreme Court of Indiana is deciding whether the BMV can control personalized license plates.

The ACLU is suing the BMV for what they say is a violation of freedom of speech.

That decision is now in the hands of Indiana’s Supreme Court and it’s up to them to decide if license plates are government property or pieces of personal expression.

“When we have the various statements that we have that are handcrafted by individuals on personalized plates, those are the statements of the individuals, not of the state itself,” said Ken Falk, Legal Director for the Indiana Chapter of the ACLU.

Falk is spearheading the suit for the ACLU and says one of his clients in the class action lawsuit was denied producing a plate that reads “UNHOLY.”

He says the standards for determining what is and isn’t allowed on a license plate are too subjective.

“If you’re going to allow people to have ‘B1BLE4ME’ or ‘GODTHX,’ you have to allow ‘UNHOLY,’ even if that plate as I said was a reference to a rock group album, but you can’t pick and choose sentiments in that way,” he said.

“The agency still deserves the final word on all of this. It simply gives citizens an opportunity to come in and plead their case,” said the BMV’s attorney during oral arguments Thursday.

The BMV argues license plates are government speech and property they should have the right to control.

“We have a lot of personalized plates with, ‘Within God we trust,’ and stuff like that on it, so I think yeah, if you’re going to allow people to do that then you should allow people the freedom to put whatever they want on the back pretty much,” said Indiana driver Jason Jones.

The Supreme Court will issue their final ruling, determining if the BMV will have to loosen its control over personalized plates in the coming months.

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