N.H. man challenges state over ‘COPSLIE’ vanity license plate

Katie LaPotin, Red Alert Politics, November 7, 2013

A New Hampshire man fought for his First Amendment rights in the state’s Supreme Court Thursday after being denied a vanity license plate reading “COPSLIE.”

Farmington resident David Montenegro, who last year had his name legally changed to ‘human,’ requested the vanity plate in 2010 because he felt “it highlights government corruption,” according to The Associated Press.

“If I could condense all of the problems that I’ve seen in New Hampshire government down to a single sound bite small enough to fit on a license plate, ‘COPSLIE’ would be it,” human said after his hearing today, the Albany Times-Union reported

human added after the hearing that he wanted the vanity plate to create an ironic statement if cops pulled him over. He is optimistic that the court will invalidate the DMV provision, even though he told the justices in his opening argument that the only reason the case reached the state Supreme Court was because “of a corrupt judiciary.”

Lawyers from the New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union argued before the court that the current DMV regulations in the Granite State are unconstitutionally vague and give too much discretion to the individual staff members. In New Hampshire, vanity plates that “a reasonable person would find offensive to good taste” are prohibited.

‘‘There’s no way to objectively enforce this regulation,’’ Gilles Bissonnette, an attorney for the NHCLU, told theAP, noting that “COPSLIE” is a form of political speech that the state government is trying to regulate and suppress.

‘‘So if a person at DMV agrees with the sentiment, he gets the plate?’’ Supreme Court Chief Justice Linda Dalianis asked. 

‘‘What is good taste?’’ Justice Carol Ann Conboy added. ‘‘That seems to be the nub of the argument.’’

New Hampshire Associate Attorney General Richard Head, who argued on behalf of the DMV, told the court that the “COPSLIE” vanity plate was denied because it disparages police officers.

“It was an accusation against all officers relative to their morality and their position as law enforcement officers,” he said according to CBS Boston.

The AP reported that the justices didn’t seem to indicate which way they would rule.

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