Stopped at a red light, the amplified sound emanating from the car next to you actually seems to rock the vehicle. For some motorists, that intrusive noise rises to the level of a public nuisance.
But Florida’s Supreme Court ruled last week that motorists can play their car stereos as loud as they want. They struck down parts of a state statute that barred drivers from blasting car radios at a volume “plainly audible” to someone 25 feet away.
A court majority called that overreach and struck down parts of the law, saying it “infringed on the freedom of expression.”
A Tampa lawyer who got a $73 ticket for violating the noise law brought the case. He was listening to Justin Timberlake on his way to work one morning when stopped and given the citation.
He took the case to court, challenging the law’s constitutionality, and it wound up going from circuit court to the 2nd District Court of Appeal, which also found the law overly broad.
Last week’s decision upholds the 2nd District opinion, although the Supreme Court justices didn’t cite the constitutionality argument. Instead, they focused on First Amendment rights that guarantee free speech.
Justice Jorge Labarga, writing for the majority, said he was skeptical of the state’s argument that striking down the law would put in peril an exemption for businesses and political speech. That’s a reference to the sound trucks deployed during political campaigns and often at sales events where loud music and screaming deejays are part of "protected" free speech, as well.
He wrote that the state’s argument "fails to explain how a commercial or political vehicle amplifying commercial or political messages audible a mile away is less dangerous or more tolerable than a noncommercial vehicle amplifying a religious message audible just over 25 feet away from the vehicle."
So our advice: If you find loud music annoying, you might ask Santa for the cash needed to get your car A/C fixed. That way, you can travel with windows closed and shutting out most of the ambient noise that surrounds you.
Either that, or you can try playing classical music real loud on your own car stereo and scare away teenage drivers in droves. Don’t laugh — that technique has been successfully used by shopping malls on the mainland to discourage large gatherings of teens late at night.
Might we recommend anything by Beethoven, Wagner and Tchaikovsky’s classic “1812 Overture” (you know, the one with the cannons for percussive emphasis).