Court Gives Green Light to Anti-Cop License Plate, But Driver May Have a Tough Ride Ahead

Sunday, May 18, 2014
David Montenegro (photo: AP/WMUR)

A New Hampshire man is about to find out how good the sense of humor of his state’s police is.

In 2010, David Montenegro applied for a vanity license plate reading COPSLIE. He was denied by New Hampshire’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) because several of its employees deemed the plate “insulting.” Montenegro’s appeal was denied, with the DMV director writing “a reasonable person would find COPSLIE offensive to good taste.”


Eventually, Montenegro applied again for the plate, but this time provided backup choices including GR8GOVT. He was issued the GR8GOVT plate, and sued the state, charging his state and federal free speech rights had been violated in not issuing the COPSLIE plate.


Montenegro, who in 2012 legally changed his name to “human,” lost at trial but appealed. In a decision (pdf) earlier this month the New Hampshire Supreme Court gave him the right to have the COPSLIE plates.


“It reaffirmed that the basic principle that a law that delegates to government officials the power to accept or deny speech based on their own views is unconstitutional,” Gilles Bissonnette, a New Hampshire American Civil Liberties Union staff attorney, told the Los Angeles Times.

-Steve Straehley


To Learn More:

‘COPSLIE’ License Plate Is Protected By Free Speech, Court Rules (by Paresh Dave, Los Angeles Times)

New Hampshire Court Allows ‘COPSLIE’ Vanity Plate (Associated Press)

New Hampshire Man With ‘COPSLIE’ License Plate Wins Free Speech Battle, Lifetime Of Police Harassment (by Tim Cushing, Techdirt)

David Montenegro v. New Hampshire Division of Motor Vehicles (Supreme Court of New Hampshire) (pdf)

Iraq War Vet Sues Michigan for Right to “INFIDEL” License Plate (by Matt Bewig, AllGov)

Judge Rules North Carolina License Plates Unconstitutional (by Noel Brinkerhoff and David Wallechinsky, AllGov)


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