Like to play the music in your vehicle loud? You might want to stay away from Florida

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If you’re planning on spending some vacation time relaxing with the sun and sand in Florida, be careful with the volume knob when you’re driving to the beach. As of July 1, 2022, you can get a ticket if your stereo’s too loud.

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Specifically, you can no longer be driving on a street or highway, or simply “occupying a motor vehicle,” with your music loud enough that it’s “plainly audible at a distance of 25 feet (7.6 metres) or more from the motor vehicle,” or if it’s “louder than necessary for the convenient hearing by persons inside the vehicle in areas adjoining churches, schools, or hospitals.”

If a cop decides your tunes are too loud, it’s considered a non-criminal traffic infraction and you can be handed a ticket for a “non-moving violation,” which should run about US$114 to $116. The price can depend on the jurisdiction, but the law is statewide.

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Now there are some exceptions, of course. The law covers operating or amplifying the sound “produced by a radio, tape player, or other mechanical sound-making device or instrument,” and your horn doesn’t count — although of course you could still run afoul of the law if you lay it on too heavy, although that’s not part of this statute.

The loud-music law also doesn’t apply to motor vehicles used for business or political purposes if they use sound-making devices “in the normal course of conducting such business.” The state law instead leaves it up to local authorities to determine how and when you can make that kind of noise. And cops can use any communication device in their vehicles when it’s necessary for them to disturb the peace while dealing with emergencies.

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Police on the scene
Police on the scene

It’s actually a Florida flip-flop, because ten years ago, the state’s Supreme Court overturned a similar noise-ban law. The decision was due to an appeal from a lawyer who had a Justin Timberlake song at full blast in his car, and when he got a ticket for it – for the volume and not, alas, for his choice of music – he appealed all the way to the top. The court found the law invalid “because it is an unreasonable restriction on the freedom of expression.”

Exactly how the new law will be enforced is still up in the air. The statute now requires the state’s Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles to actually decide what is “plainly audible” and to come up with the standards for measuring the sound.

By forcing the stereo knob down, the law does have the advantage that drivers will be able to hear police or ambulance sirens — which isn’t always possible if the music’s too loud. But it remains to be seen, or heard, if the law will stay on the books, or if someone will challenge it again under the argument of freedom of expression.


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