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NH Supreme Court Upholds ‘COPSLIE’ License Plate

By Michael Rosenfield, WBZ-TV
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WBZ-TV's Michael Rosenfield Michael Rosenfield
Michael Rosenfield is the New Hampshire Bureau Chief for CBS Boston’s...
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CONCORD, N.H. (CBS) — David Montenegro, who legally changed his name to ‘human’ and represented himself in front of the New Hampshire Supreme Court in November, has won his case.

He wanted the license plate COPSLIE but was turned down when workers at the New Hampshire Division of Motor Vehicles found the request insulting.

DMV rules allowed for vanity plates to be denied if they were deemed “offensive to good taste.”

The New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union, which joined the case on human’s behalf, says the DMV’s rules allowed the state to restrict speech.

“It really allowed DMV officials who were sitting behind a desk to use their own value judgments in deciding when speech on certain vanity plates is appropriate and when it wasn’t appropriate,” said Gilles Bissonnette, a staff attorney with the NHCLU. “What happened here was textbook viewpoint discrimination.”

In their opinion issued Wednesday, the New Hampshire Supreme Court justices ruled the DMV’s restrictions are “unconstitutionally vague” and violate the right to free speech.

It’s something they seemed concerned about during the November hearing.

“The decision as to whether it’s offensive to good taste is inherently subjective and depends on who’s making the evaluation,” said Justice Carol Ann Conboy at the time.

‘Human’ told WBZ-TV in November that he decided cops lie when he was arrested twice for attempted jaywalking and protesting police misconduct.

It is unclear if human can now get the plate he’s been fighting for since 2010.

The case will now go back to Superior Court and state officials are also analyzing their options, according to New Hampshire Assistant Attorney General Karen Schlitzer.

In a phone interview with WBZ Wednesday, human said he is happy with the Supreme Court’s decision and is eager to find out what will happen when the case goes back to Superior Court.

“It’s a great decision,” said Bissonette of the Supreme Court’s opinion. “It’s a victory for free speech rights in this state.”

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