Lake City, FL – A Florida state’s attorney determined that the words displayed in large print on the back of a pickup truck are protected speech under the First Amendment (video below).
The words were uncensored and said "I EAT A--".
A Columbia County sheriff’s deputy stopped 23-year-old Dillon Shane Webb on May 5 after he saw the vulgar message in big white letters on the tinted back window of his brown pickup truck, WJXX reported.
"I saw the cop at the courthouse and he whipped around to follow me, and I thought to myself, I’m buckled, I’m not speeding, all my lights work, what’s the issue," Webb said.
The deputy first approached the passenger side of the truck and spoke with the driver through the window.
“He said, hey man, don’t you think that sticker is pretty vulgar? And I said, not really,” Webb told WJXX.
"So some 10-year-old little kid sitting in the passenger seat of his mama's vehicle looks over, reads “I eat a--”, and asks his mother what that means, how do you think she’s going to explain that?" the deputy asked Webb.
“That’s the parent’s job, not my job,” Web replied.
Dashcam video from the traffic stop showed the deputy asked Webb to step out of his truck, and then he searched him.
The deputy quickly issued the driver of the truck a notice to appear in court, and asked him to remove one of the letters from the display on the back window so it would no longer be obscene.
But Webb refused, the video showed.
“You’re not doing that. You’re not going to infringe on my first amendment rights. You’re not doing that,” Webb told the deputy.
So the deputy got back in his cruiser and called an official for guidance on how to proceed.
The deputy and the official reviewed that statute together and confirmed it was a misdemeanor for any sticker or decal on a vehicle to have obscene words on it, the video showed.
The video showed the deputy gave the official the statute number and the official reviewed it while the deputy patiently waited.
The official asked for details, such as how big the sticker was and the deputy compared it to the size of the truck’s third brake light.
Alright, make sure you take pictures of all of that,” the official advised the deputy. “Arrest him, take him to jail, and tow his s--t. That way you can get it off the road, you know what I’m saying?”
The official advised the deputy on how to do the associated paperwork.
“Charge him with resisting. Charge him with um, you know, that statue, and then tow his s--t,” the official said in the video.
The deputy got out of his vehicle and put Webb in handcuffs, advising him that he had committed a misdemeanor.
Then he asked Webb if there was anything illegal inside the truck and Webb told him that he didn’t have permission to search the truck, the video showed.
The deputy advised him that he was going to tow the truck and so he had to do an inventory first.
He put Webb in the backseat of his patrol vehicle as the man’s mother arrived on the scene and asked the deputy what was going on.
The deputy briefly explained the situation to her and then allowed her to go talk to her son just as the video ended.
Webb was arrested and charged with violating the state’s obscenity law and resisting an officer without violence.
Florida state law requires a sheriff’s office to “vigorously enforce” the law with regard to obscenities, according to WJXX.
But the state’s attorney’s office dropped the charges against Webb on May 9.
Hernando County Assistant State’s Attorney John Durrett said they couldn’t establish the standard set by the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Miller vs. California.
"We evaluated it under the case law, we applied the Miller vs. California test, you have to look at in the community standard," Durrett told WJXX. "For every individual you encounter, and believe you me, I’ve heard it from everyone, there is clearly a divided opinion."
In Miller vs. California, the court ruled that a community’s standards and values determined the level of an obscenity, not a “national standard.”
The sheriff’s department stood behind the deputy’s decision to arrest Webb.
Columbia County Sheriff's Sergeant Murray Smith told WJXX it wasn’t the word on the sticker that was specifically illegal.
"It was the obscene phrase depicting what the deputy thought was a sexual act, which is obscene by definition," Sgt. Smith explained. "And if the state attorney is not going to file on something, we aren’t going to go re-arrest somebody."
Watch the video of the arrest below: