The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibits the making of any law abridging the freedom of speech. The Fourteenth Amendment, which states, "No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States..." applies these protections in the states.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana settled a lawsuit on behalf of a Whiting woman who was arrested while she was taking pictures of a house fire.
"We are happy for our client that this case has been settled," said ACLU of Indiana Legal Director Ken Falk. "No one should be subject to arrest simply for exercising rights that the U.S. Constitution guarantees to everyone, and we hope this behavior will not be repeated."
Contending the officer violated the woman's First and Fourth Amendment rights, the ACLU of Indiana filed the case on April 1, 2015 on behalf of Christine LaPlume against a City of Whiting police officer.
UPDATE: On Feb. 4, 2016, the ACLU of Indiana filed a petition in this case with the United States Supreme Court. Click here to download the petition in PDF.
On Nov. 6, the Indiana Supreme Court issued a ruling that reversed the trial court's decision, saying "Indiana's personalized license plates are government speech," and that denial of a personalized license plate does not violate the First or Fourteenth Amendments. A copy of the decision, No. 49S00-1407-PL-494, can be downloaded here.
We live in a society where we often assert our individuality in small ways—whether it's holding a sign on a street corner, posting our opinion on a blog, or stringing together some letters to make a statement on a license plate. Fortunately, the First Amendment gives broad protection to these many forms of speech, and it requires governments to exercise a great deal of caution when imposing regulations on speech. In the case of Indiana's personalized license plate program, the State went too far when it arbitrarily revoked some Hoosiers' license plates and then suspended the program in July 2013.
Through door-to-door democracy, the Indiana affiliate of the Citizens Action Coalition (CAC) has been able to advocate effectively for nearly four decades on behalf of Hoosiers. CAC canvassers go from house to house in residential neighborhoods during the evening hours to educate citizens and gather petition signatures on issues such as utility rates and regulations, health care, and the environment.
Picture this: Four indigent people passively solicit contributions from pedestrians near Circle Centre Mall in downtown Indianapolis. While they display signs asking for funds, they are not aggressive in nature and do not seek funds from people who are driving by. Therefore, they are not violating any laws and their activity is fully protected by the First Amendment. Yet, when this actually occurred, the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department ordered them to move.
In the days and weeks leading up to Super Bowl XLVI, the City of Indianapolis transformed itself from an ordinary Midwestern municipality to an urban center anticipating worldwide attention and unprecedented levels of excitement. Along with the hundreds of thousands of visitors who flooded downtown—causing retailers and restaurateurs to drool at the prospects—the transformed region presented a boon for expressive activity at the heart of the First Amendment's freedoms.