Sweeping Ban Against Blaring Loud Music One Step Closer To Floor Vote

Apr 8, 2013

A bill that would ban loud music that can be heard more than 25 feet away is one step closer to a floor vote. The measure seeks to correct several provisions in an existing Florida law that the courts deemed unconstitutional. But, the measure received much opposition from Senate Democrats.

As recently as last December, the Florida Supreme Court upheld a lower court decision that said that they’re alright with a law that bans music blaring from a vehicle that is “plainly audible” at a distance of more than 25 feet.

However, the courts stated some provisions in the law were too “subjective” and were deemed unconstitutional. They include an exemption for vehicles used for political and business purposes.

The courts’ decision also made it hard for law enforcement to enforce the law, and Republican Senator Wilton Simpson sought to repeal those provisions, but still keep the essence of the law intact.

But, Democratic Senator Audrey Gibson had a problem with that, as she questioned Major Chris Connell, a member of the Florida Police Chiefs Association, about what that meant.

“So, I like my music loud, especially on I-10 when I’m back and forth to Tallahassee—and sometimes I like it loud at home, but I let my windows up—So, what is plainly audible,” asked Gibson.

“Well, I’m not the one wrote the bill," responded Connell.

“But, you’re the one who would write the ticket,” questioned Gibson.

“If I was the one enforcing it, it would be something that would be distractive if I was driving along the roadways. So, normally these are more of an inner-city, along the local streets—and I drive quite a bit on the Interstate, and I’ve never really witnessed one that was on the Interstate where I had it happen—but, I have seen when it was local. And, usually within that 25-foot rule, you’re dealing with: at a traffic stop or a traffic light, you’re at a park, or something to that where it would be fairly obvious to everyone that is around. And, 25 feet would be 8 or 9 paces or strides,” replied Connell.

Senate Democratic Leader Chris Smith also questioned whether passengers in the car cited for loud music could be held liable, but Republican Senator David Simmons assured him that’s not the case.

“A close reading of the language says that if you occupy, you’re not going to be liable, unless you are a person who operates or amplifies the sound produced by a radio, tape player, etc. So, you could be an occupant, who’s actually actively engaged in turning the sound up, but you can’t be liable, from my reading of this, unless you are a person who is actually causing the sound to be produced,” said Simmons.

Senator Greg Evers is the Chairman of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, the panel that vetted the bill Monday. He had sponsored the bill that created what the court deemed as “subjective provisions.” And, speaking to Evers, Senator Rob Bradley, says he wants to put what this bill is really doing into perspective.

“I don’t see any reason to re-litigate a law that was passed by you several years ago. All this does is clean up those portions of an existing law that have been deemed unconstitutional," said Bradley.

It’s basically a technical amendment," added Evers.

"Exactly, it’s basically a technical amendment to what is in law today,” Bradley agreed.

But, Senator Smith fired back with a response of his own.

“Where I’m coming from, is we’re technically amending a bad idea from the start. I voted against it when it first came out. And, because it’s in the law, I’ll still be voting against it,” said Smith.

And, Democratic Senator Audrey Gibson, emphasizing an earlier point, said lawmakers should tread lightly when it comes to this issue.

“I like my music loud, and I don’t think I should have a ticket, and if my windows are up and I’m bobbing like I usually do down the Interstate, then that’s my enjoyment and it’s not offensive to anyone I know of. So, I think when we open up the statute again, and we have the opportunity to send the same message that was sent before, I want to take advantage of that, I want to make sure that my voice was heard on behalf of many constituents in the state of Florida who like their music loud,” said Gibson.

The bill passed along party lines with Democrats opposed in the Senate Criminal Justice Committee. It has one more stop to go before it heads to the Senate Floor.

For more news updates, follow Sascha Cordner on twitter @SaschaCordner.