INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) - New examples of confusion continue to emerge in the ongoing legal battle over personalized license plates in Indiana. Viewers who saw I-Team 8’s investigation into BMV decisions are voicing their concerns over the program’s future.
I-Team 8 compared thousands of personalized plate requests filed over the last three years and found a number of inconsistencies in plate requests that were approved and denied.
The BMV says it's used these 9 criteria to approve and deny plates as official agency policy since 2009. But, following I-Team 8’s investigation, some drivers, like Travis Bell, are questioning how well those policies have been enforced.
Bell’s south side garage is filled with collector and novelty cars of every shape and size, including a replica of the General Lee from The Dukes of Hazard , a truck from B.J. and the Bear, and an old police car now emblazoned with “party patrol” on its side doors.
Bell said he requests new vanity plates for all the vehicles every year.
“Every year we try to change up all of our vehicle plates and see what we can get away with, and see what matches up with our vehicles,” Bell said, with a grin. “It’s a lot of fun for me to come up with something new and clever.”
But, Bell claims the BMV’s decision on what plates to allow and deny have been baffling over the years.
“We've been doing this for 20 years, and the plates that you could and couldn't—and can and can't--get away with always vary. You can send one thing in and it can get denied. You can send it in with something else, or even the exact same spelling or the exact same plate, and it gets approved. I’ve had the same plate denied and approved within 30 days,” he said.
Among other decisions that have left Bell scratching his head over the years is “CNH 320,” the license plate shown on TV on the original General Lee. Bell claims he had the plate for 11 years, until last year, when it was denied.
“The BMV said that plate would come up in sequence, so it would be put on another car. They said I couldn’t use that combination of three numbers and three letters,” he said.
But, the BMV had no problem approving “PARTY ON” for the party patrol squad car. The plate was such a hit in 2011 that Bell renewed it in 2012 and 2013. He also added a plate reading “PARTY 0N” to another one of his cars in 2012. It was also renewed in 2013.
“One of them says PARTY ON with an ‘O’ and one of them says PARTY 0N with a zero,” he said. “I still can’t tell which one is which.”
That’s despite one of the BMV’s policies that states that plates with confusing number or letter combinations will be denied.
"DTH PROF" was approved for one of Bell’s cars as an homage to one of his favorite movies: Death Proof by Quentin Tarantino.
“But, they deny all sorts of other plate requests for violence,” Bell said. “I told them point blank in the application: this says Death Proof from the black Dodge Charger in the GrindHouse movies. They said—sure, no problem.”
But, the BMV rejected Bell’s request for “CPT SLOW" on the same car the following year, saying it was in "poor taste." So, Bell asked for—and received—“CPN SLO” instead. He also put “CPT KAOS” on an old ambulance in the garage, as an ode to Captain Chaos.
“And, I thought for sure that they’d deny “DIP STIK,” which is another nod to The Dukes of Hazard,” he said. “They made me bring the car down to show them it was going on a classic car, but after that, they gave it to me and renewed it several times.”
The agency also granted Bell the word “DONUT” on a DARE supporter plate. He says he even told the BMV he would be putting the plate on a Ford Crown Victoria.
His neighbor Tony got the green light on an even racier plate: "BADCOP" on a law enforcement supporter plate.
It was approved in 2011 then renewed until last year, when the BMV rejected it.
“To me, that’s just as offensive as “OINK” on an FOP plate,” Bell said, referencing the case now being challenged in court. “I understand that if it's universally offensive, it should be off limits. Don't even attempt it. But, a lot of these plates are harmless fun. And, right now, no one is winning. I’d like to get new plates for all these cars this year, but with the program suspended, I can’t. To me, that’s the most frustrating part.”
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