Profanity on Vanity License Plates Isn’t a Constitutional Right, Says Maryland High Court

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Not profane
Not profane

Maryland’s highest court ruled last week that an Accokeek man was rightly denied the freedom to swear on his license plate.

The Court of Appeals ruled that John T. Mitchell couldn’t display the Spanish curse “MIERDA” (rough translation: shit) on his vanity plate. Mitchell was initially sent the plates in 2009, but they were rescinded two years later after appearing on the state’s Objectionable Plate List. Mitchell challenged the ruling.

The ruling boils down to the fact that the state prohibits profanity on the license plates. The court ruled that doesn’t violate free speech, and agreed that even Spanish curses aren’t allowed.

The law “does not require the MVA to translate a non-English term into dozens of languages in order to balance benign translations against offensive ones, or to engage in some other form of trans-linguistic indecency calculus,” the court writes.

In other words, keep it clean in any language.

The ruling begins in a way that indicated it’s not a typical case.

“What does Petitioner, John T. Mitchell, have in common with “Seinfeld’s” Cosmo Kramer?” A footnote at the bottom of the opening page then briefly summarizes the infamous “ASSMAN” episode. Undoubtedly, the judge was required to watch the episode for “research.”

The ruling was first reported by The Daily Record.



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