In a criminal case just south of Jacksonville, Florida the suspect was driving in his vehicle and playing his music in a loud manner when he was pulled over by the police for a noise violation. The police officer checked the driver’s license and learned that it was suspended. When the police officer searched the car subsequent to the arrest, he found a large quantity of cocaine and marijuana in the car. The suspect was then arrested for trafficking in 28 grams of more of cocaine and possession of marijuana.
The criminal defense lawyer for the suspect filed a motion to suppress the cocaine alleging that the search was illegal because the police officer did not have authority to pull the driver over for the noise violation. If the initial stop of the suspect was illegal, then the subsequent arrest of the suspect for driving with a suspended license and search incident to that arrest would be illegal. In that case, the evidence of the cocaine seized after the illegal search would be thrown out.
The criminal defense attorney argued that a person has a First Amendment right to play music loudly and the noise violation was unconstitutional. The Florida noise statute basically says that a person operating a vehicle on the roads cannot play music that can be heard at least 25 feet away from the vehicle. The court agreed that the noise statute was unconstitutional because amplified music is protected under the First Amendment and the noise statute unnecessarily allowed certain types of noise beyond 25 feet while prohibiting others.
So, the criminal defense lawyer was able to successfully argue that the noise statute, which was the basis for the original stop, was an unconstitutional law. However, the court still did not invalidate the search and the evidence of the cocaine and marijuana. The court found that while the police officer’s stop of the suspect for the noise violation was an illegal stop, the police officer made the traffic stop in good faith because he had no way of knowing the noise statute was unconstitutional. Even where a search and seizure of a person is illegal because it is based on an illegal statute or another invalid reason, evidence from the illegal search and seizure can still be used in court against the suspect if the police officer conducted the search and seizure in good faith. This is known as the good faith exception, and some courts use it to allow evidence to come in against a defendant even where the criminal defense attorney successfully argues the search and seizure were illegal.