'Unmarked Police Car' Bumper Sticker Leads to Traffic Stop, Lawsuit - Legally Weird
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'Unmarked Police Car' Bumper Sticker Leads to Traffic Stop, Lawsuit

An Indiana woman thought the "Unmarked Police Car" joke bumper sticker she received as a gift was pretty funny.

But Indianapolis police apparently didn't agree. Pamela Konchinsky, 56, was pulled over and claims police demanded she remove the sticker, reports The Indianapolis Star.

Konchinsky is now suing the police officers, alleging they violated her constitutional rights. What's the basis of her lawsuit?

First Amendment Claims

Konchinsky's suit alleges that the officers' actions violated her First Amendment right to freedom of speech.

Generally, the government cannot suppress speech unless it falls into one or more categories of unprotected speech, such as "fighting words" or "obscenity." In this case, the officers may claim that the sticker was in violation of Indiana's impersonation of a public servant statute, which prohibits pretending to be a public servant "with the intent to mislead and induce another person to submit to false official authority or otherwise act" to their detriment.

But arguing that a humorous bumper sticker on a minivan was affixed to intentionally mislead others may be a tough argument. After all, aren't unmarked police cars supposed to be unmarked?

Fourth Amendment Claims

Konchinsky's lawsuit also alleges that police violated her Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable search and seizure.

Police can't stop a vehicle unless they have a reasonable suspicion to suspect a crime or observe a traffic violation. In this case, Konchinsky wasn't cited for any violation, but claims she was told that she was free to go -- only after she removed the bumper sticker, reports The Indianapolis Star.

Konchinsky's suit seeks damages for lost wages as a result of the traffic stop, legal costs, and an injunction requiring police to "cease and desist from further suspicionless detention, interrogation, harassment, and intimidation related to the humorous content of bumper stickers."

But Remember the '0INK' License Plate Case?

The bumper-sticker case isn't the only cop-joke-on-a-car case currently playing out in Indiana. An Indiana police officer sued the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) after the bureau revoked his "0INK" vanity license plate for being "offensive or misleading." The officer insists it was meant as a joke.

Last month, an Indiana judge ruled in the officer's favor and ordered that the BMV, which had halted its entire vanity plate program following the officer's lawsuit, to reinstate the program and allow the officer to obtain his vanity plate if he still wanted it.

As for the "Unmarked Police Car" bumper sticker lawsuit, a lawyer for the city of Indianapolis declined to comment.

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