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Florida Turns up the Volume: Strikes Down Law Banning Loud Music in Vehicles
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On Thursday, the Florida Supreme Court struck down a 2007 statute that made it illegal to play music on vehicles at volumes loud enough for a cop to hear it 25 feet away. Though the justices did not accept an argument for the statute being too vague about the volume – they held the statute was a form of content-based censorship that went against the First Amendment.

In the instant case, the police had ticketed Richard Catalano and Alexander Schermerhorn at separate traffic stops for playing loud music. The accused pleaded not guilty and argued that their tickets should be dismissed, as the statute was “unconstitutional.” Later, they changed their pleas to no-contest and appealed to the higher court. Their appeal was supported by an amicus brief by the ACLU.

They won at the Second District Court of Appeal and at the Supreme Court. The Florida court said that the ban on playing loud music was unconstitutional and against free speech rights. It was also noted that the statute had been made applicable only to private vehicles and not to police and emergency vehicles, or to commercial broadcasts from vehicles used in business promotions, or political promotions.


The ruling observed, “The regulation, however, treats commercial and political speech more favorably … For instance, business and political vehicles may amplify commercial or political speech at any volume, whereas an individual traversing the highways for pleasure would be issued a citation for listening to any type of sound, whether it is religious advocacy or music, too loudly.”

The court observed that the statute was not sufficiently specific to limit free expression only to protect public safety, but “is an unreasonable restriction on the freedom of expression and is unconstitutionally overbroad, but it is not unconstitutionally vague.”

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  1. Mark Markarian

    December 14, 2012 at 4:46 am

    The simple concept of disturbing the peace is now legal under the First Amendment. The amendment written to protect political speech and uncomfortable ideas from being suppressed or curtailed is being used by Mr. Catalano and Mr. Schermerhorn for playing their cars stereo too loud, with the court protecting their right to be a pain in the butt to their motoring neighbor.

    But then to tie in the fact that the law isn’t applicable to police and emergency vehicles and thereby unequal in its application, shows the cluelessness of the attorneys involved.

    When our courts strike down simple laws that empower police to use their common sense to fine, but not arrest people for acting like bozos before tempers flare, we know we’re on the wrong track.

    Mark Markarian
    Pleasantville, NY

  2. mindbird

    December 18, 2012 at 9:28 am

    Poor Floridians–the cacophony of modern life is about to be enhanced by the sounds of singers crooning and cussing for sex and violence. I have seen people whose music is so loud they can’t hear ambulance sirens. I have read about people being shot over their loud music. Now you can have these experiences, too!

  3. ltd777

    June 13, 2013 at 8:36 am

    this total B.S. what is free speech. it is the political right to communicate one’s opinions and ideas using one’s body and property to anyone who is willing to receive them. i don’t want to hear your stereo’s in my house. it is not free speech if i can not turn it off, walk away or stop listening to it! i am not given that option! i have to listen to your music(not mine) everyday whether i want to or not. SO WHAT ABOUT MY RIGHTS!!!!!!!! COMPLETE IDIOTS!!

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