Vancleave Man Says Car Tag Office Denying His Freedom Of Expression - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Vancleave Man Says Car Tag Office Denying His Freedom Of Expression

Out of everything in the world, the one thing J.J. Smith says he loves most is the freedom of his Harley.

"Riding a motorcycle is my high. It's my church, in fact. This is where I'm closest to God," Smith says.

And for the last four years, Smith has displayed his emotion on his license plate, telling the world that his Harley is "MYHIGH."

But that all changed when he went to renew his tag last week.

"I was told I couldn't get it, it was inappropriate."

The clerk told him "MYHIGH" could be a reference to drugs.

Smith got furious.

"If I were getting high on drugs, I'd buy a plate like that to put on my kilo of heroine. But this is a motorcycle. It's not drug related at all," Smith says.

Even though it was the Jackson County car tag office that denied Smith the renewal of his license plate, the decision came from Jackson. The state Motor Vehicle License Division has a computer program that decides which vanity tags are offensive and which ones aren't.

But Smith has had his plate for four years, so why is he just now being denied?

Officials from car tag office in Jackson say they have a new program and this one doesn't approve of the word "HIGH."

"This has become America of the oppressed," Smith says. "I don't have the right to express myself, my values of getting a high off of a motorcycle instead of drugs. Something's wrong with this country."

Smith says he doesn't want to drive around with an offensive message on his back bumper. And he feels his present tag isn't offensive at all.

"I have a right to have that tag on there. It isn't vulgar. Is it to you?"

Officials at the state motor vehicle licensing division say the computer program is supposed to filter out vulgar language, body parts, and obscene messages. They say non-vulgar tags do sometimes get filtered out because of the word choice.

Taxpayers can call the office in Jackson to ask for their vanity license plate message to be reviewed. That's exactly what J.J. Smith says he's going to do.

By Jaimee Goad

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