There’s nothing better than cranking up the stereo and listening to your favorite song on a road trip. But if you’re heading to Florida on vacation, you’d better be careful—it’s about to become a criminal offense. Starting July 1, a new law is going into effect that says you can be fined up to $114 for playing loud music in your car.
Florida’s new loud music statute says that it is “unlawful for any person operating or occupying a motor vehicle on a street or highway to operate or amplify the sound produced by a radio, tape player or other mechanical soundmaking device or instrument from within the motor vehicle so that the sound is plainly audible at a distance of 25 feet or more from the motor vehicle.”
Considering that the average car is about 15 feet long, it won’t take much to get a ticket.
Things get even stricter near churches, schools or hospitals. In that case, tickets can be issued when noise made by people inside vehicles is “louder than necessary for the convenient hearing.”
The new statute is actually a reboot of an older law. In 2007, Richard Catalano—a St. Petersburg lawyer—was fined $73 for blasting a Justin Timberlake song on his commute to work. He fought the law at the time by claiming it was a constitutional violation of the right to free speech. The law was overturned by the Florida Supreme Court.
In its new form, the loud music law is part of House Bill 1435, which was signed into law on May 26 and is aimed at stopping pop-up beach parties. But Catalano says it’s not just about the noise. “It’s a pretext to pull people over for other reasons,” Catalano told the Palm Beach Post. One of those reasons: unwarranted drug searches.
There’s been a lot of backlash on social media. “So I can carry a gun anywhere in Florida and that’s okay, but if I play Hall and Oates too loud, that’s against the law?,” says Twitter user Cormac Cornell. “But we all know who it’s going to target and not the car playing Bon Jovi but rather the car playing Jay-Z,” says another Twitter user with the handle @cnote.
But police officers are defending the law. “It can be a safety hazard if you are the operator of that vehicle, and you have that radio up so loud where you can’t hear what’s going on outside of the vehicle,” Capt. William Stevens with the Bartow Police Department told ABC Action News. “You have other sirens and emergency vehicles that come up behind you and you’re not even aware of it.”
“We are not trying to target someone trying to listen to music and have a good time,” Lt. Mike Crabb, with the Orange County sheriff’s office, told WESH. “But, there is a limit to the noise that you can create from your vehicle.”