Case Overview

Legal Principle at Issue

Whether the State of New Hampshire may constitutionally enforce criminal sanctions against persons who cover the motto "Live Free or Die" on passenger vehicle license plates because that motto is repugnant to their moral and religious beliefs.


Affirmed (includes modified). Petitioning party did not receive a favorable disposition.


New Hampshire statutes require that noncommercial motor vehicles bear license plates embossed with the state motto, "Live Free or Die," and make it a misdemeanor to obscure the motto. Appellees, Maynard and his wife, who are followers of the Jehovah's Witnesses faith, view the motto as repugnant to their moral, religious, and political beliefs, and accordingly they covered up the motto on the license plates of their jointly owned family automobiles. Appellee Maynard was subsequently found guilty in state court of violating the misdemeanor statute on three separate charges and upon refusing to pay the fines imposed was sentenced to, and served, 15 days in jail.

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