The New Hampshire Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that a man can have a license plate reading “COPSLIE,” saying that the regulation the Division of Motor Vehicles cited to bar him from owning that plate was “unconstitutionally vague.”
David Montenegro’s application for the plate was rejected under a regulation that bars plates “which a reasonable person would find offensive to good taste,” the court said.
Citing a decision in another case, the court said it concluded the restriction “ ‘authorizes or even encourages arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement’ . . . and is, therefore, unconstitutionally vague.”
Because of its vagueness, the court held, the regulation violates the free speech right guaranteed in the New Hampshire Constitution.
Montenegro applied for the plate May 4, 2010. On his application, he said the intended meaning was that “cops lie.”
That same day, the application was rejected because several DMV employees believed the plate to be insulting.
Montenegro appealed to the director of the DMV, then to the commissioner of safety, and then went to court. A lower court judge upheld the DMV’s denial of the plate. The high court’s decision reversed the decision.Martin Finucane can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.