Does This Maryland Man Have a Constitutional Right to a Profane License Plate?

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0001 better not be code for something dirty.
0001 better not be code for something dirty.

The Maryland Court of Appeals is currently considering whether the message on a vanity license plate constitutes government speech or the speech of an individual, and more to the point, can John T. Mitchell of Accokeek keep his “MIERDA” plates?

According to coverage in Maryland Reporter, the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration issued Mitchell the vanity plates in 2009 without a hiccup. Then, in December 2011, the MVA sent him a letter explaining that “MIERDA” is on “Objectionable Plate List” (which you should bookmark and come back to when the baseball season’s over because it’s a great place to kill three hours) and his plates would be recalled.

But Mitchell is appealing, arguing that because the word mierda (Spanish for “s—“) does not qualify as obscene, his right to display it in all caps on his car is protected by the First Amendment. And might know what he’s talking about; he’s a First Amendment lawyer.

And at least until the court delivers a ruling sometime after Sept. 27, Mitchell continues to use his “MIERDA” tags.

 

 



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