The new law targets cars with loud music and exhausts too.
As regulations tighten around vehicle emissions across the US, other laws are slowly coming into place that limit another type of pollution: noise. We've recently reported how large cities such as New York have started using special cameras and sound devices to fine drivers with loud exhausts, and California is rolling out the same laws on the West Coast, but what about the wild bunch down in Florida?
Vehicle owners with loud exhausts and blaring car stereos will now be fined up to $115. The new law, which went into effect on 1 July, will allow Florida officers to ticket vehicle owners playing music that is audible from a minimum of 25 feet, and joins previous laws allowing officers to issue citations for drivers with loud aftermarket exhausts.
The new law comes as a relief for some residents who are fed up with noise pollution in their neighborhoods, but police have admitted that it will be enforced on a less strict basis.
"We look for the more egregious violations, that you can pretty much hear coming from a block away," Fort Lauderdale Police Captain Tim McCarthy said to NBC Miami.
Police officers can also use their discretion to issue fines for vehicles playing loud music or revving their engines near hospitals, schools, and churches. Lt. Mike Crabb of the Orange County Sheriff's Office told WESH that the law focuses on safety, and not necessarily on noise pollution, and said that playing loud music could mask the sound of sirens on emergency vehicles.
"We're not trying to target somebody [who's] just trying to listen to music and have a good time, but there is a limit to the noise that you can create from your vehicle," he concluded.
Some drivers have slammed the new law as an exercise in shameless revenue seeking, while others state that the law will be used to target specific races and cultures, adding a discriminatory element into the mix. The state of Florida had previously attempted to pass a similar law, but failed to do so when it was thrown out in SC11-1166 State of Florida v. Catalano. The 2012 attempt at curbing vehicle noise pollution made exemptions for political or business purposes, which was found to be unconstitutional as it violated free speech rights.
Those in opposition to the new law have also stated that it will be used as an entryway for officers to claim probable cause and initiate a traffic stop. These suspicions were confirmed by Bartow Police Captain William Stevens who told WFLA that "it gives another opportunity for an officer to attempt to or see if they can identify any other identifiers that would allow them to continue on with any criminal investigation."
The failed 2012 law stated that "the detection of a rhythmic bass reverberating type sound is sufficient to constitute a plainly audible sound" and could be used as justification to issue a citation or even a traffic stop. The new law is even more hazy, and simply states that the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles "shall adopt rules defining 'plainly audible' and establish standards regarding how sound should be measured by law enforcement personnel."
It is unclear if those rules have been set, and how officers will react to different types of music, as someone blasting dubstep might get targeted more often than a hooligan destroying ear holes with Peruvian flute music. With so much room for interpretation and enforcement, this law might just end up filling up courts with thousands of appeals and in worst-case scenarios, cost the state millions in wrongful arrest cases.
"People have a right to worship and to education and, especially, peace within their communities. Let's be real, the majority of society does not want to hear vulgar or loud music while they're driving down the road. You do have the right to listen to whatever you want, but we collectively don't have the right to disturb others," said traffic safety expert Trooper Steve Montiero in an interview with Click Orlando. This sounds like another challenge to free speech if you ask us. All we truly want is that R. Kelly and Pitbull fans get arrested on the spot when playing their music in public spaces, no matter the volume levels.
The law joins Sec. 316.293. Motor Vehicle Noise regulation, which states that "No person shall operate or be permitted to operate a vehicle at any time or under any condition of roadway grade, load, acceleration, or deceleration in such a manner as to generate a sound level in excess of the following limit for the category of motor vehicle and applicable speed limit at a distance of 50 feet from the center of the lane of travel under measurement procedures."
This law also states that vehicles manufactured after January 1, 1979 may generate noise levels of up to 72 db when traveling at 35 mph or less, and 79 db when traveling over 35 mph. These noise levels are measured from 50 feet. Section 293 clearly restricts using any non-original equipment that could affect exhaust noise levels, and states that "No person shall modify the exhaust system of a motor vehicle or any other noise-abatement device of a motor vehicle operated or to be operated upon the highways of this state in such a manner that the noise emitted by the motor vehicle is above that emitted by the vehicle as originally manufactured. Violating this law is considered a traffic infraction, punishable as a non-moving violation according to Chapter 318 of Florida statutes." It seems like the party is over in Florida, especially for Honda Civic and Subaru WRX owners.