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New Hampshire court upholds 'COPSLIE' vanity plate

N.H. Supreme Court Allows 'COPSLIE' License Plate


By LYNNE TUOHY

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) -- If a New Hampshire man thinks cops lie, he's free to say so on his license plate, the state's highest court ruled Wednesday.

In a unanimous decision, the state Supreme Court agreed with the arguments of David Montenegro, who wanted the vanity plate reading "COPSLIE" to protest what he calls government corruption.

State law prohibits vanity plates that "a reasonable person would find offensive to good taste." But the New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union argued that the law is unconstitutionally vague and gives too much discretion to a person behind a Department of Motor Vehicles counter.

New Hampshire had argued that state workers were right to deny the plate, because the phrase disparages an entire class of people - police officers.

The justices said that state law does not define the phrase "offensive to good taste."

"The restriction grants DMV officials the power to deny a proposed vanity registration plate because it offends particular officials' subjective idea of what is `good taste,'" the court wrote. The decision states the law is unconstitutionally vague and violates free speech rights.

The case was sent back to Strafford County Superior Court for further proceedings.

Attorney Anthony Galdieri, who argued the case on behalf of Montenegro and the New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union, said he was not surprised by the ruling. "This regulation was an impermissible way to regulate speech under the First Amendment," Galdieri said.

Montenegro did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

At spirited arguments in November, the high court panel grilled state officials.

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

"What is good taste?" added Justice Carol Ann Conboy, who wrote Wednesday's ruling. "That seems to be the nub of the argument."

Answering a question about whether a plate reading "COPS R GR8" would be approved, Senior Assistant Attorney General Richard Head acknowledged that two different people could come to different conclusions. Head could not be reached for comment.

Lawyers for Montenegro told the court that the accusation "COPSLIE" is a viewpoint that should be protected as free speech, not regulated and suppressed by the government.

After court in November, Montenegro - who in 2012 legally changed his name to "human" - said he thought police officers who might pull him over and have to type "COPSLIE" into their computers would amount to "the perfect situational irony."

He also acknowledged that he had been arrested twice but would not say what the charges were.

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keithj77441 May 08 2014 at 7:01 AM

let the idiot have his plate

Flag Reply +1 rate up
chuck May 08 2014 at 4:16 AM

better obey the law now stupid.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
Joe May 08 2014 at 2:45 AM

Cops do lie. The license plate tells us nothing that we don't already know.

Flag Reply +4 rate up
2 replies
bert hall Joe May 08 2014 at 3:07 AM

PRESIDENT OBAMA AND HILLARY CLINTON LIE. REMEBER FOUR DEAD AMERICANS IN BENHGAZI.

Flag Reply +2 rate up
2 replies
andcllbr bert hall May 08 2014 at 3:47 AM

What did they lie about and how did it lead to any deaths?

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chetrandom bert hall May 08 2014 at 4:29 AM

More Repug propaganda because another election is coming late next year and Hillary is the front-runner...and try to remember the 100,000 with Gulf War Syndrome under a Repug President...who by the way lied...and lied...and lied...and fabricated...and spun...

Flag 0 rate up
Ina Goodling Joe May 08 2014 at 4:39 AM

SOME cops lie, not all. The only people who believe they are all bad are people who have been arrested by them and deserved it.

Flag Reply 0 rate up
CPA11973 May 08 2014 at 2:03 AM

those would be telling the truth if they were on a car in Chicago.

Flag Reply +4 rate up
1 reply
slackwarerobert CPA11973 May 09 2014 at 12:58 PM

but then the neighbor down the street would need to get one that says "And can't shoot straight either" to cover the bullet holes in his car when they see it.

Flag Reply 0 rate up
rushjensen May 08 2014 at 1:48 AM

Simple, Just cancel the vanity plate program & go back to just issuing plates with random letters & numbers & all is solved. This is NOT a "Sue-Able" issue. MVD Gets last word, no questions asked !

Flag Reply +1 rate up
3 replies
lunarstruck May 08 2014 at 1:45 AM

They DO lie, we have proof.

Flag Reply +4 rate up
3 replies
wizard2 May 08 2014 at 1:39 AM

If I was him I would not drive 1mph over the speed limit, signal all turns and make sure all the lights in my car worked. Got a feeling he's going to be a target for the boys in blue.

Flag Reply +3 rate up
3 replies
Paulzuk54 May 08 2014 at 1:07 AM

TO EACH HIS OWN

Flag Reply +1 rate up
Mark May 08 2014 at 12:59 AM

The guy looks like an a-hole. The fact that he legally changed his name to "Human" confirms he is an a-hole.

Flag Reply +3 rate up
2 replies
skipm123 Mark May 08 2014 at 2:57 AM

My, aren't we judgmental! Look who's calling the kettle black.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
chetrandom Mark May 08 2014 at 4:38 AM

Why don't you come out and say it: "humans" who are ugly are "a-holes"...since most humans are ugly, most are "a-holes" regardless of what their license plates say!

Flag Reply 0 rate up
wboozer@mail.com May 08 2014 at 12:49 AM

I notice that "truthfulness" is not considered to disqualify a phrase on one's license plate!

Flag Reply +2 rate up
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