Is the “Loud Music Law” a Pretext for Vehicle Searches Without a Warrant?
We have all experienced loud music from surrounding vehicles, disturbing us on roadways and in our homes. Drivers need to hear what is happening around them. Studies have shown that loud noise emanating from vehicles may slow driver reaction times and increase the chances of distracted driving accidents. In our neighborhoods, blaring music from vehicles causes many homeowners sleepless nights. Florida legislation instituted a law, effective July 1, 2022, to combat these issues. The law bans the operation of radios or other mechanical or electronic sound-making devices that are “plainly audible” at a distance of 25 feet or more from a motor vehicle.
While many citizens favor a law to preserve peace and safety on our roadways and neighborhoods, others believe it may be a pretext for law enforcement officers to initiate traffic stops for other reasons, such as unlawfully targeting minorities and seeking out serious criminal charges.
What is “Plainly Audible?”
The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles defines “plainly audible” as any sound that can be heard outside a vehicle by a person using normal hearing faculties at a distance of 25 feet. The Loud Music Law was established to promote quality of life, comfort, and safety. It includes loud exhaust systems and vehicle mufflers that give a racing car sound to a vehicle. In addition, the law prohibits louder-than-necessary noise from vehicles in areas adjoining private residences, churches, schools, or hospitals. (Florida Statute 316.3045)
History of a Noise Law in Florida
A prior law restricting loud noise in Florida was struck down in 2012. At that time, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that a “plainly audible” loud music statute was vague, subjective, and an “unreasonable restriction on the freedom of expression.” The law violated a citizen’s free speech rights under the First Amendment. Furthermore, it was discriminatory, as it exempted motor vehicles used for business and political purposes. When the law was revised and signed in 2022 by Governor Ron DeSantis, it removed the exemption of political and business vehicles.
Is Loud Music Probable Cause for a Search and Seizure?
The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution protects citizens from unlawful searches and seizures. Law enforcement officers must have probable cause to stop and legally search a vehicle. With the Loud Music Law, noise is a reasonable cause for an officer to pull over a vehicle. It is a ticketable offense, with a fine of $114. In some cases, a vehicle can be impounded for three days.
What may seem like a non-criminal traffic violation with a fine can quickly escalate to serious criminal charges when drugs, weapons, or other illegal items are in plain view. In another example, an officer can utilize drug-sniffing dogs during a loud music stop. If the dog alerts the officer to the presence of illicit substances, that is reasonable cause for a search of the vehicle. Many believe this is an abuse of police authority.
The AP Law Group Proactively Protects Your Rights
Incarceration and a permanent criminal record are consequences that can follow you for a lifetime. When you are the target of an investigation or have been criminally charged with a misdemeanor or a felony crime, dealing with the criminal justice system can be confusing and overwhelming. If you have been faced with an arrest resulting from a loud music stop, you need experienced legal counsel that recognizes what is at stake for you.
The criminal defense trial lawyers at The AP Law Group can implement strategies to protect your livelihood and reputation. We formulate aggressive defenses to resolve crimes with the most favorable outcome for our clients. Our legal team routinely handles Florida State and Federal cases.
If you have been charged with a crime following a loud music traffic stop, we will challenge your arrest using any legal means necessary. Contact The AP Law Group at (352)732-9191 to schedule a confidential consultation. Our offices are in Gainesville and Ocala, Florida, and we represent clients throughout Marion, Alachua, and the surrounding counties.