Stricter offensive bumper sticker law takes effect

Stricter offensive bumper sticker law takes effect (Image 1)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Starting Friday, Tennessee drivers caught with obscene or patently offensive bumper stickers, window signs or other markings on their vehicle visible to other drivers face an automatic $50 fine.

The law also includes movies other drivers can see playing inside of vehicles, including adult films.

Tennessee code 55-8-187 had allowed judges to decide on a fine from $2 to $50 based on their opinion.

Democratic State Representative Gary Moore, of Joelton, however, co-sponsored a House bill to stiffen the fine after he got several angry calls from constituents.

“On two different instances they had their children in the car with them and they pulled up on a vehicle that had an obscene bumper sticker,” he said.  “I think it will make drivers a little more aware that there is a law out there.”

Drivers question if the law violates their rights to free speech.

“What is obscene to one person may not be to another,” driver Karen Smith said.  “They are constantly arguing about what is obscene what that definition is.”

Another driver who wished to not be identified told Nashville's News 2 he believes the law is odd, but thinks it could help protect children from inappropriate images.

“If someone has a bumper sticker with nude photos on it that's a different story,” he said.  “I'm not going to worry about it.  I am not going to put any obscene bumper stickers on my car.”

In his opinion, Rep. Moore said the law does not violate any constitutional protections, including freedom of speech.

“When you get into crossing the line so to speak you do not have a right to impose your speech on other people,” he said.

He also suggested people report vehicles to the police if they view something on someone else's car that they think is obscene or patently offensive.

“What a constituent can do is take a license number down and turn it into a police department,” Rep. Moore said.  “Then the police department can handle it from there.”

Drivers have the option of fighting a ticket in court to let a judge decide if they really were in violation.

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