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Freedom of Speech issue with Georgia Vanity Plates/tags

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Ever wonder if your vanity license plate/tag would be politically/religiously or socially acceptable? It's apparently pretty hard to tell in Georgia since there appears to be no rhyme or reason why some vanity plates are approved, and other, similar ones are not.:P

http://www.ajc.com/n...n-a-whim/nTsmY/

Georgia bans some vanity license plates on a whim

See all rejected license plates

licensetagsphoto.jpg Georgia Dept. of Revenue

By M.B. Pell

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

A slew of insults. Anatomical descriptions that would launch an auditorium of middle school boys into howls of laughter. A cornucopia of illegal

drugs. Invitations of a highly personal nature.The state has rejected thousands of vanity license plates with such themes to protect the public

from offensive language. Most are too vulgar to print. Some are just silly: BIGBRA, ER0TIKA, F0XIE1.

But buried amid that list of licentiousness are religious, philosophical and political expressions the state also has deemed unsuitable to appear

on motor vehicles. G0DROKS, G0DWH0, ILUVGUNS, GAYPWR and FEMM have been nixed by State Department of Revenue employees,

who have wide latitude and only vague statutory guidance in deciding what speech gets squashed.Yet G0D4EVR, GUNLUV, GAYGAY and

FEMFTAL got their nod.

The state's inconsistent decisions raise questions about whether personal agendas are tainting the process. And restricting speech in such an

arbitrary fashion may put Georgia at risk of the kind of constitutional challenge other states have already fought and lost.To pass legal muster,

government restrictions on free speech must be precise, said Cynthia Counts, an Atlanta lawyer who specializes in freedom of speech

issues. Allowing S0SEXY1 while banning MSSEXI shows Georgia is not precise."That's going to be what hurts them the most," Counts

said. "To limit speech the government has to show a compelling interest. How in the world are they achieving any purpose if they're deciding it

arbitrarily?"

The difference between 10,214 banned tags and the 91,151 accepted tags is sometimes laughably unclear, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

found in reviewing the lists.The department doesn't like HVYGUNS, but 1BIGGUN is fine.G0TBEER? Not in Georgia. L0VWINE? Go for it. BELLY?

Yay. UTERUS? Nay. 44JESUS? Sure. 5JESUS? Absolutely not. ENGLAND, GERMAN, SAUDIA and SYRIA? Not offensive. IRAQ and IRAN2?

Offensive.

Georgia Department of Revenue officials know consistency is a problem. Employees try to be fair, but maintaining viewpoint neutrality – one of

the free-speech concepts federal judges would consider in a lawsuit – is not possible when the department has to make dozens of tricky

judgment calls each week, said Vicki Lambert, the department's director of local government services and the motor vehicle division.

For guidance, employees rely on the statute regulating what the state calls prestige plates. That law says the department will not allow profanity,

language the community considers obscene or language that ridicules a person, group, or religious belief or being, race or ethnicity.But the law

otherwise offers little guidance, and since the state first started selling prestige plates in 1968, community standards have changed.

Further complicating matters, during the last 45 years dozens of different department employees have reviewed prestige tag applications —

all with a different opinion about obscenity, race, religion and what it means to ridicule.This is why Georgian's can REBEL4, but they can't

MUTINY."Whether it's a good answer or not, at different times we've had different people in the reviewing process," Lambert said. Lambert understands Georgia residents have a right to free speech. Her job, she noted, is to balance that against not subjecting other people

to a disgusting license plate while sitting in traffic on Interstate 75."And that's where we struggle," Lambert said.One problem is that what's

offensive to one person may not be offensive to another.A complaint Lambert recently received regarding a standard license plate, not a vanity

plate, illustrates that difficulty.The sequence of letters and numbers on standard license plate is determined by an automated process.

This year, Georgians started receiving license plates beginning with PAA and then PAB and then PBB and so forth.Lambert received a call

from a woman who was angry when she got PMS.Lambert sympathized. So the department sent the woman a new plate. Even so, Lambert

said she personally disagreed. She wouldn't mind having PMS. "To me PMS is not offensive because maybe people would stay away

from me on the road," she said.

Another problem is that it's difficult to catch the meaning behind many of the 200 to 250 prestige plate applications the Department of

Revenue receives each week.There's an art to it, Lambert said. Employees sound out the proposed plate. They think about how people use

numbers and letters to create expressions. The number eight often means hate. It can also mean ate. In W8NGOD, eight helps spell out

"wait on God." "You've really have to put your mind in a different place," Lambert said. The texting lexicon makes her job even more difficult.

"The texting world brought up things you can sound out all day and it's not going to tell you anything," Lambert said. "It's scary because I'm

not sure what some of these people are saying."These tag applicants may LOL. But, FWIW, @TEOD, it leaves some department of revenue

employees RMETTH. (By the way, that's Laugh Out Loud, For What it's Worth, At the End of the Day and Rolling My Eyes to the Heavens.)

To decode these applications, department employees run the text through Urban Dictionary or Wikipedia, Lambert said. Even with these tools

though, they don't catch everything.Sometimes an offensive plate squeaks through and onto the road. The department pulls these tags when

they learn of them, usually through a complaint from an offended motorist.

The sale of these vanity plates does provide a financial benefit to the state. The $35 special tag fee brought in nearly $2.3 million in fiscal

year 2011-12. But Bruce Brown, an Atlanta lawyer who specializes in free speech issues, says the plates may prove more trouble than

they're worth."The headache is making constitutional decisions about what can be displayed and what can't be. It's too hard to do. They

don't appear like they're doing it right now," he said.The state's haphazard system has not yet undergone court scrutiny.

But other states with similar issues have been sued and lost. Taxpayers are stuck with the legal tab, and those states have been forced

to make changes.In December, a U.S. District Court judge ruled a North Carolina plan to offer license plates with a pro-life background

unconstitutional. Because the state did not plan to offer a pro-choice license plate, the court ruled the state's plan would favor one

political viewpoint over another.In 2010, a federal appeals court ruled Vermont's practice of banning all religious speech on license

plates unconstitutional. The court held that allowing secular expressions, like Carpe Diem, but not religious expressions favored

secular speech. It would be difficult to argue Georgia provides preferential treatment to one political, religious or philosophical view point.

The state approves and bans tags without the hint of a coherent preference policy. Georgia banned ATHEIST and BIBLE but then allowed

both CDARWIN and JESUSNI.

But the arbitrary approval process presents its own problems. A federal appellate court ruled unconstitutional Missouri's statute banning

license plates with language "contrary to public policy." The court held the statute gave the Missouri Department of Revenue far too

much leeway to ban speech.Counts, the free speech lawyer, said Georgia's law also leaves too much to employees."They're clearly deciding

who can say what with broad discretion," she said.So, ultimately, are the prestige tags more trouble than they're worth?"The politically correct

answer is no," Lambert said. "But the answer to us here is it does take time. It takes time to review them. It's not a perfect system.


“...Isn't it splendid to think of all the things there are to find out about? It just makes me feel glad to be alive--it's such an interesting world. It wouldn't be half so interesting if we knew all about everything, would it? There'd be no scope for imagination then, would there?”

. Lucy Maude Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

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Another Member of the VJ Fluffy Kitty Posse!

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They should just put away with these custom plate numbers altogether. Your plate number is assigned to you randomly and that's that. It's a plate number for crying out loud. What's next? Vanity VINs? :wacko:

I THink what they out to do is have a color code that reflects how much in taxes you have paid in, so we know who to give respect to on the road.

Also they should do a quick check to make sure no one getting vanity tags is on the dole.

I am sick and tired of seeing that.

Edited by Danno

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"Those people who will not be governed by God


will be ruled by tyrants."



William Penn

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They should just put away with these custom plate numbers altogether. Your plate number is assigned to you randomly and that's that. It's a plate number for crying out loud. What's next? Vanity VINs? :wacko:

They are a source of extra revenue for the state, though.


AOS for my husband
8/17/10: INTERVIEW DAY (day 123) APPROVED!!

ROC:
5/23/12: Sent out package
2/06/13: APPROVED!

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They are a source of extra revenue for the state, though.

Then let people have the plate they want. How much does the state spend on deciding what is and what isn't appropriate to have on the plate? What if an out-of state plate has what is banned in your state? Is such car then not allowed on your roads? If it is, why is it okay for an out-of-state person to have and display in the state the plate that my state denies me? It's ridiculous. All around. Find a different stream of revenue or cut some expenses but to pay people with taxpayer funds to decide what vanity plates are what vanity plates are not okay to issue - no.

Edited by Mr. Big Dog

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Ever wonder if your vanity license plate/tag would be politically/religiously or socially acceptable? It's apparently pretty hard to tell in Georgia since there appears to be no rhyme or reason why some vanity plates are approved, and other, similar ones are not.:P

http://www.ajc.com/n...n-a-whim/nTsmY/

[/size]

I live in Ga . That is going to cause a problem. There seems to have been no consistency what so ever, I guess it depended on the person doing the screening. Hey maybe you mods could get second jobs screening vanity plates in GA. , it might be easier than keeping us straight.

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I THink what they out to do is have a color code that reflects how much in taxes you have paid in, so we know who to give respect to on the road.

Also they should do a quick check to make sure no one getting vanity tags is on the dole.

I am sick and tired of seeing that.

I would have my own lane.. LOL.. Ga just figured out how to make better use of the HOV lanes in Atlanta. Spent millions upgrading them and adding toll sensors and cameras. Now none uses them.. Sweet only our government.

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I live in Ga . That is going to cause a problem. There seems to have been no consistency what so ever, I guess it depended on the person doing the screening. Hey maybe you mods could get second jobs screening vanity plates in GA. , it might be easier than keeping us straight.

Lol - you know, I can definitely sympathize with the situation - what is inappropriate to one individual is fine for another! Maybe when I stop being a moderator I can apply for a job at the Department of Revenue evaluating Vanity plates! I've got transferable experience!! :lol:


“...Isn't it splendid to think of all the things there are to find out about? It just makes me feel glad to be alive--it's such an interesting world. It wouldn't be half so interesting if we knew all about everything, would it? There'd be no scope for imagination then, would there?”

. Lucy Maude Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

5892822976_477b1a77f7_z.jpg

Another Member of the VJ Fluffy Kitty Posse!

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Then let people have the plate they want. How much does the state spend on deciding what is and what isn't appropriate to have on the plate? What if an out-of state plate has what is banned in your state? Is such car then not allowed on your roads? If it is, why is it okay for an out-of-state person to have and display in the state the plate that my state denies me? It's ridiculous. All around. Find a different stream of revenue or cut some expenses but to pay people with taxpayer funds to decide what vanity plates are what vanity plates are not okay to issue - no.

Well clearly those public servants didn't spend too much time on their decisions since the results are utterly capricious.

I think the vanity plates are lame too, but I understand why they exist.


AOS for my husband
8/17/10: INTERVIEW DAY (day 123) APPROVED!!

ROC:
5/23/12: Sent out package
2/06/13: APPROVED!

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They should just put away with these custom plate numbers altogether. Your plate number is assigned to you randomly and that's that. It's a plate number for crying out loud. What's next? Vanity VINs? :wacko:

I agree, they're ridiculous.

My sister bought some and then proceeded to get her front plates stolen one evening, while parked downtown. So then she got to buy replacement plates. No thank you.


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how can you tell if someone is on welfare by looking at their license plates?

I think that part would happen before they got it

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I think that part would happen before they got it

um. danno said he was sick of seeing vanity plates on the cars of welfare recipients. i was wondering how he knew who was and who wasn't sporting vanity plates while receiving public benefit.

i understand how a procedure could be inacted to determine if someone should be 'allowed' to purchase vanity plates..

Edited by val erie

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