First Amendment Extends To License Plates

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In March 2010, I wrote about how DMV censors vanity license plate requests and rejects those which it finds to be offensive in a post entitled “Funny And Offensive Vanity License Plates“.

Well, last week, in a 7-year old lawsuit, a Federal judge in Albany held that DMV can be required to give motorists the option of getting a license plate border with a politically-sensitive message. Specifically, the plates state “Choose Life”.

The DMV argued that such plates could induce road rage, but the Judge Neal McCurn held that the DMV’s prohibition violated motorists’ free speech First Amendment rights.

Enforcement of this ruling is on hold while the case is appealed but, if it is upheld, you can expect to see a multitude of new license plate templates including a “9/11 Remembrance Plate” and a “Cure Childhood Cancer” plate (both of which are on hold pending a final decision in this case).

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  • My problem with DMV-endorsed political statements is that they’re an abuse of state power. This is vastly different from issuing “Mets” and “Yankees” plates.

    Try to get the legislature to authorize a “Pro Choice” license plate, and see how far you get — the state is taking sides on a political issue here, and promoting it through a state agency. (We could see an interesting Constitutional case, if someone does try to get a “Choice” plate approved.)


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