Indiana Puts a Halt on Vanity License Plates

Jul 22

They’re amusing, they’re personal to each driver, and they entertain others while sitting in traffic. You guessed it: vanity license plates.

I’ve seen many in my day. Personally, I find vanity license plates quite entertaining whilst sitting in the passenger seat, especially during those long trips; they keep my mind active without having to read a 300 page book. I’ve often times sat bewildered at what someone is trying to say to me, but more times than not, I chuckle when I do figure it out. However, according to the State of Indiana, these personalized plates aren’t so fun. Some are even being deemed inappropriate and misleading. Because of this new dislike for certain license plates, the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) has put a temporary halt to the creation of new personalized license plates.

The whole reason for this? Hoosier police officer Rodney Vawter is a cop with his own sense of pride and humor when it comes to his profession.

For the past three years, Vawter had a license plate that read “0INK.” For those of you who don’t understand, let me explain. Police officers, no matter where you go, have many nicknames, i.e. “Copper” and “Po Po”. The most common nickname I hear: “Pig.” Now, not everyone calls officers that nickname to their face, but for Vawter, according to his lawsuit, he “selected the phrase ‘oink’ for his license plate because, as a police officer who has been called ‘pig’ by arrestees, he thought it was both humorous and also a label that he wears with some degree of pride.” Those are gutsy people being arrested, if you ask me. But I suppose if you’re already headed to the big house, you don’t have much else to lose.

Although this copper takes pride in the nickname, the BMV decided to not renew his license plate when he requested do so this past March. The BMV told Vawter that his personalized license plate was inappropriate and cited a state law that allows the BMV the right to refuse the issue of a license plate officials believe holds “a connotation offensive to good taste and decency” or “would be misleading.”

According to Ken Falk, the legal director for the ACLU, he believes the statute should be considered an unconstitutionally vague infringement on free speech.

“I don’t understand that,” stated Falk. “This [suspension] in no way affects the lawsuit, so I’m not sure what the BMV is saving in expenses. The lawsuit we have challenges not the PLP program; it challenges the standards by which plates are assessed and the fact that apparently the BMV is using standards” that are not written out in neither law nor code.

And I agree. What happened to our freedom of speech? Are children pretending to be piglets during make believe offending officers if they oink? What if on top of Vawter’s love for his job as a “pig” (please don’t arrest me, officers. I’m only repeating what Vawter thinks is humorous) he also finds that pig farmers are great contributors to our society? What if Vawter reveals how much he enjoys pigging out (pun not originally intended) on bacon? Everyone loves bacon.

I believe the entire halt on new vanity plates in Indiana and this lawsuit are only occurring because the person wanting to keep “0INK” on his license plate is an officer himself. I say, if he wants everyone to know that he has pride in his job and that he can handle a joke, then why not advertise it? His license plate isn’t hurting anyone and the money for the plate is coming out of his pocket. Anyway, what are kids saying these days? “YOLO?” If “you only live once” (thank you Drake, for your input into today’s society), a license plate that has no obscenities is not that bad. There are worse things in life.

*Picture of license plate shown is the basis of the lawsuit against the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) filed by officer Rodney G. Vawter and is also a photocopy. Photo Credit: Gannett from The Indianapolis Star)

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