Loud and Proud

Pump up the volume, legally?


Does the First Amendment protect your right to play loud music from a car stereo? The Florida Supreme Court will take up that question this year when it hears oral arguments in the case of State v. Catalano. At issue is a $73.50 ticket issued to Pinellas County attorney Richard T. Catalano on February 13, 2007, for violating a state law that makes it a crime to "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."

Catalano, who is representing himself in court, argues that the law "is unconstitutionally vague, overbroad, virtually guarantees arbitrary enforcement and infringes on the First Amendment." The state's Second District Court of Appeal agreed, ruling last year that the "plainly audible" standard runs afoul of Catalano's right to free speech and should therefore be struck from the books. Florida Attorney General Pamela Jo Bondi promptly appealed the ruling to the state's highest court, which scheduled oral arguments for February 2012. "I guess I'm their worst nightmare," Catalano told the St. Petersburg Times. "I'm a lawyer with time."