Ind. SC: BMV didn't redefine 'legal name'

Jessica M. Karmasek Sep. 16, 2010, 3:00pm


INDIANAPOLIS (Legal Newsline) - The Indiana Supreme Court ruled last week that the state's Bureau of Motor Vehicles was right to revoke or threaten to revoke the driver's licenses or identification cards of individuals whose names didn't match those on Social Security cards.

The Court on Friday upheld a trial court's denial of an injunction in a class action lawsuit that claimed the bureau's policy "exceeded its authority."

In 2007, the bureau notified almost 200,000 people that their driver's licenses and identification cards did not match their Social Security cards. Within six months, more than three-quarters of these people had corrected the discrepancies.

The appellants represent the people remaining whose names did not match -- about 15,000 people. They assert the bureau overstepped its statutory authority by redefining the meaning of "legal name" to exclude anything but the name on file with the Social Security Administration.

They sought a preliminary injunction, which the trial court denied. The Court, in its opinion, affirmed the trial court's conclusion that "the class has not shown a likelihood of success."

The appellants in the case argued the bureau's requirement that their names should match those found on their Social Security card established a new requirement contrary to Indiana law. They also argued that the bureau violated due process.

But Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard, who authored the Court's opinion, said it isn't an undue burden for drivers to petition to change their Social Security records and that the policy advances a state interest in preventing identity theft.

"Though not identical, these all make clear that without a resolution to the discrepancy between the records, the Bureau would likely revoke the license or identification card," Shepard wrote.

In affirming the trial court's decision, the Court also dissolved the preliminary injunction entered by the appeals court as a stay pending appeal.

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