'COPSLIE' license plate may lead trend on New Hampshire roads

Reuters News
Posted: Jul 14, 2014 3:41 PM

By Ted Siefer

MANCHESTER N.H. (Reuters) - The New Hampshire driver who got the state's top court to approve his "COPSLIE" vanity plate could soon be joined on the highways by motorists declaring themselves "BIGTACO," "MAMS" or "KNUCKL."

The state Department of Motor Vehicles resumed processing applications on Monday for customized license plates, following a state Supreme Court ruling in May that found it was using "unconstitutionally vague" criteria to reject plate ideas.

That lawsuit was brought by a man who legally changed his name in 2012 to "human" from David Montenegro, and had proposed a plate reading "COPSLIE." The DMV rejected the plate because it violated its rule against plates that were "offensive to good taste."

The DMV on Monday began using an interim set of standards that have specific restrictions, including references to "intimate body parts or genitals," "sexual or excretory acts or functions," "profanity or obscenity," and "racial, ethnic, religious, gender or sexual orientation hatred or bigotry."

The standards, which are modeled after those in neighboring Vermont, must still be officially adopted by the New Hampshire Department of Safety by the end of July.

A backlog of about 2,000 vanity plate applications had built up since it suspended its review following the court ruling.

In 2013 alone, the DMV rejected nearly 80 plate proposals, according to state documents. In addition to "BIGTACO," "KNUCKL" and "MAMS," some of the rejected plate ideas included "A55MAN," "CATLIPS," "BOO-B," "DUCK-U" and "DEUX-ME."

The DMV rejected all of those plates because they were deemed "capable of an obscene interpretation."

Since the ruling, New Hampshire residents have brought to light plates that inexplicably made the cut, including one that read "A55-MAN," according to the Nashua Telegraph.

A similar case is playing out in Indiana, where a Superior Court judge found that the motor vehicle division violated free speech rights by rejecting certain plates, such as that of a former police officer who wanted his plate to say "0INK."

(Editing by Scott Malone and Peter Cooney)