|Criminal Defense | Noise Law Struck
“[S]ection 316.3045, Florida Statutes (2007). . . restricts the volume at which a car stereo system may be played on a public street, but it exempts vehicles being used for business or political purposes, which in the normal course of conducting such business use soundmaking devices. “
The statute provides: “Operation of radios or other mechanical soundmaking devices or instruments in vehicles; exemptions —
(1) 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:
(a) Plainly audible at a distance of 25 feet or more from the motor vehicle; or (b) Louder than necessary for the convenient hearing by persons inside the vehicle in areas adjoining churches, schools, or hospitals.
(2) The provisions of this section shall not apply to any law enforcement motor vehicle equipped with any communication device necessary in the performance of law enforcement duties or to any emergency vehicle equipped with any communication device necessary in the performance of any emergency procedures.
(3) The provisions of this section do not apply to motor vehicles used for business or political purposes, which in the normal course of conducting such business use soundmaking devices. The provisions of this subsection shall not be deemed to prevent local authorities, with respect to streets and highways under their jurisdiction and within the reasonable exercise of the police power, from regulating the time and manner in which such business may be operated.
(4) The provisions of this section do not apply to the noise made by a horn or other warning device required or permitted by s. 316.271. The Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles shall promulgate rules defining “plainly audible” and establish standards regarding how sound should be measured by law enforcement personnel who enforce the provisions of this section.
(5) A violation of this section is a noncriminal traffic infraction, punishable as a nonmoving violation as provided in chapter 318.”
“The circuit court carefully considered each argument and concluded that the issue ruled on by the two district courts was essentially the same, i.e., whether the “plainly audible” standard was too vague and overbroad to pass constitutional scrutiny. “
“Additionally, while recognizing our agreement with the reasoning and conclusion reached by the circuit court, we note that section 316.3045 suffers from a more fundamental infirmity. “
“A case that is directly on point, and was cited favorably in Cannon, is People v. Jones, 721 N.E.2d 546 (Ill. 1999). In that case, the court held that a sound amplification statute, which prohibited the use of sound amplification systems in motor vehicles that could be heard from a specified distance away from a vehicle and which contained an exception for vehicles engaged in advertising, was a content-based regulation of speech, in violation of the First Amendment.”
“Turning our attention to the Florida statute at issue, on its face it is not content neutral. The statute excepts from its provisions “motor vehicles used for business or political purposes, which in the normal course of conducting such business use soundmaking devices.” § 316.3045(3). In other words, an individual using a vehicle for business purposes could, for example, listen to political talk radio at a volume clearly audible from a quarter mile; however, an individual sitting in a personal vehicle that is parked next to the business vehicle is subject to a citation if the individual is listening to music or religious programming that is clearly audible at twenty-five feet. Clearly, different forms of speech receive different treatment under the Florida statute. That is, the statute in question does not “apply equally to music, political speech and advertising,” which is what the Supreme Court requires in order for the statute to be deemed, “content-neutral.” See City of Cincinnati, 507 U.S. at 428.”
“Additionally, we conclude that the statute is a content-based restriction on free expression which violates the First Amendment.”
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