Constitutional Law

Florida Supreme Court Strikes Down Ban on Loud Car Stereos

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In February 2007 a Florida lawyer named Richard T. Catalano was issued a $73.50 ticket for blasting the music of pop star Justin Timberlake out of his car in violation of a state law that made it illegal 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."

Arguing that the law was "unconstitutionally vague, overbroad, virtually guarantees arbitrary enforcement and infringes on the First Amendment," Catalano brought suit, representing himself in court. "I guess I'm their worst nightmare," he quipped. "I'm a lawyer with time."

Unfortunately for Sunshine State lawmakers, the nightmare just got worse. Last Thursday the Florida Supreme Court unanimously voided the car stereo law as "unconstitutionally overbroad and an impermissible content-based restriction." As the court held:

[W]e find that the statute is an unreasonable restriction on First Amendment rights.  Likewise, the restriction of the constitutionally protected right to amplify sound, despite the State's acknowledgement that this level of noise is tolerable and safe if the source is a commercial or political vehicle, is not narrowly tailored to achieve the government's interests in improving traffic safety and protecting the citizenry from excessive noise.  Thus, we also find that the statute is unconstitutionally overbroad because it restricts the freedom of expression in a manner more intrusive than necessary.

[Thanks to How Appealing for the link.]