TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Florida drivers and visitors may need to watch the volume of their music or face a ticket. House Bill 1435, signed into law on May 26, took effect immediately upon becoming law.
While HB 1435 covers changes to how a special event space is defined for the sake of permit and penalties, and vehicle impounding, it also refreshes and updates an older state statute relating to noise levels in traffic, for ticketing and citation.
The bill updates s. 315.30145 of the Florida Statutes, bringing it back into force after a Florida Supreme Court ruling knocked it down.
Under the statute as updated, if someone is “listening to car radio, tape player, compact disc player, portable music or video player, cellular telephone, tablet computer, laptop computer, stereo, television, musical instrument, or other mechanical or electronic soundmaking device or instrument, which sound emanates from the motor vehicle,” and it can be heard “at a distance of 25 feet or more from the motor vehicle” or is “louder than necessary for convenient hearing by persons inside the vehicle in areas adjoining private residences, churches, schools, or hospitals,” be prepared for fines and citations.
The law specifically says that the rule does not apply to law enforcement vehicles or emergency vehicles. Those subject to a citation under the statute are given a “noncriminal traffic infraction, punishable as a nonmoving violation,” according to statutes of chapter 318.
The inclusion of the provision in HB 1435 brings back a statute struck down as unconstitutional by the Florida Supreme Court 10 years ago.
The case in question, State of Florida v. Richard Catalano, was decided in December 2012.
According to the case records from the State v. Catalano, a Pinellas County attorney, according to case records preserved by the state Supreme Court, was pulled over and cited for “for violating the sound standards of section 316.3045(1)(a), Florida Statutes” in 2007.
Contesting the statute as “unconstitutionally overbroad,” Catalano and another Florida man who had been cited similarly, contested their citations up to the Florida Supreme Court.
Previously enacted versions of the statute had exemptions for law enforcement, business vehicles, and political vehicles. Those protections for volume were not extended to everyday use or residents.
The court’s decision at the end of 2012 ruled the statute’s noise ordinance standard of “plainly audible” was vague and unconstitutional, saying “an unconstitutional content-based restriction because it contains an exemption for vehicles used for business and political purposes that use sound-making devices in the normal course of operations.”
Written in short, ice cream trucks and campaign vans could play music loudly and audible past 25 feet from a police officer, but residents driving to work or home could not.
In their analysis of the case, the Florida Supreme Court summarized Catalano and co-appellant Alexander Schermerhorn’s argument as saying the 25 foot rule was subjective due to the different potential hearing capabilities of individual officers of the law.
The appellants “argue that citizens cannot conform their behavior to the law because of uncertainty over whether the music in their vehicles would be plainly audible beyond twenty-five feet to a particular police officer.” Due to the carve outs for business and politics in the previous version of the statute, Florida’s Justices said the bill was restrictive on free speech grounds, saying the exemptions made it “not content neutral.”
As the statute has now been reenabled with the update, the carve outs for businesses and politics have been removed.
Separately, HB 1435’s provisions for “special event zones” may also subject it to court battles.
The law, now active, designates a special event zone as a space on a roadway, street, or highway designated by warning signs and including parking structures, parking lots, and any public or private property next to such a designated area. Through its provisions, the new law allows officers to designate a “special event zone in response to a special event that takes place or is reasonably anticipated to take place on a roadway, street, or highway” that they have jurisdiction over.
Designating such an area, HB 1435 says law enforcement may post warning signs at “each point of ingress or egress” and double all fines for the area, as well as impound vehicles for traffic infractions and violations. The signs must be posted 24 hours before enforcement can be in effect. Impounded vehicles may be held for up to 72 hours, in addition to the doubled fines.
It is unclear if the law will be contested again, once enforcement begins. While the law itself says it is already active, some law enforcement agencies, such as the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, have said enforcement will begin July 1.