Last month, a 26-year old double Harvard graduate was reportedly pulled over by police for playing the N.W.A. song “Fuck Tha Police” while visiting his parents on Thanksgiving break. Cesar Baldelomar, who is currently enrolled as a law-student at Florida International University, told the Miami New Times that the song began playing from his car while he was stopped at a red light nearby police officer.
“Really?” Hialeh Police Officer Harold Garzon said to Baldelomar according to the site. “You’re really playing that song? Pull over.”
Baldemor was quickly cited by Garzon for playing loud music within 25 feet of another person, but he fired back himself with a relevant and recently updated Supreme Court decision.
“In 2012 the state supreme court struck down any law banning loud music,” he recounted to the Times, the same thing he told the police officer at the time. “I knew that because it was a case I had actually studied in law school.”
Garzon, who in a 17-year police career had had 16 internal affairs cases brought against him, apparently proceeded to call over two more cops and then issued three other citations in response to Baldelomar’s legal reference. First, Baldelomar was falsely told that the insurance information he presented from his phone wasn’t acceptable—”It’s got to be paper,” Garzon told him, disregarding another recent law change, this time at the state-level, by issuing a citation. Shortly after, Garzon issued a ticket for an out-of-state license plate and for not wearing a seat-belt, two more charges Baldelomar disputes and neither of which were related to the originally bogus noise complaint.
Baldelomar declined to sign any of the tickets and told the Times he’ll bring his grievances to court.
“I’m educated,” he said. “I know my rights. And I speak English, so I can fight this. But what about when this happens to someone who’s not so lucky? Policing has to change in this country.”
Baldelomar’s court battle may run into a roadblock given a new Supreme Court ruling with relevance to the case released yesterday (December 15). In a 8-1 decision, the Court ruled that “police officers don’t necessarily violate a person’s constitutional rights when they stop a car based on a mistaken understanding of the law,” according to NPR. That new ruling stemmed from an illegal traffic stop in North Carolina in 2009 that led to the seizure of a small bag of cocaine and the Court’s decision “ruled that since the officer’s mistake was reasonable, it did not violate the constitution’s ban on unreasonable searches and seizures.”