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'0INK' If The State Should Keep Personalizing License Plates

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The Indiana Supreme Court will consider the future of Indiana’s personalized license plates after the state and the ACLU each had their say over a lawsuit challenging the program.

Greenfield Police Officer Rodney Vawter, with approval from the Fraternal Order of Police, had a license plate that read “0INK.” 

The Bureau of Motor Vehicles revoked it, calling it inappropriate.  The ACLU of Indiana, on behalf of Vawter, sued the BMV, saying its policy violates free speech rights. 

But Indiana Solicitor General Thomas Fisher says a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision ruled that Texas’ specialty plates constituted government speech; as a result, Fisher says, the government should have final authority over what goes on its plates.

“Language changes; connotations change," Fisher says. "The BMV needs to be able to take into account those things that become offensive to the citizenry and to be able to decide what messages, in any particular time frame, it wants to affiliate with.”

But ACLU Indiana legal director Ken Falk says the BMV’s standard for what is and isn’t offensive is too vague. 

He cites, for example, the BMV denying a plate saying “HATER” but approving one that read “HATERS.”  “WNTR SUX” was approved; “CNCR SUX” was not. 

Brandon Smith is excited to be working for public radio in Indiana. He has previously worked in public radio as a reporter and anchor in mid-Missouri for KBIA Radio out of Columbia. Prior to that, he worked for WSPY Radio in Plano, Illinois as a show host, reporter, producer and anchor. His first job in radio was in another state capitol, in Jefferson City, Missouri, as a reporter for three radio stations around Missouri. Brandon graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a Bachelor of Journalism in 2010, with minors in political science and history. He was born and raised in Chicago.