Law against Loud Music Unconstitutional?
Eminem, Little Wayne blasting from the speakers while you’re sitting at the light in downtown Orlando? According to Florida Statute Section 316.3045(1), that is a no-no. On September 6, 2011, however, Florida’s 5th District Court of Appeals issued a ruling that the statute is unconstitutional. The statute makes it illegal for a person to operate a “sound-making device” in a motor vehicle that is “plainly audible” from a distance of 25 feet. What makes it unconstitutional? After all, a similar statute has been upheld by the United States Supreme Court that prohibits “loud and raucous” noise being emitted from sound trucks in residential neighborhoods. What makes the loud music statute unconstitutional is that it is not content neutral like the sound truck statute.
The statute fails to be content neutral because it provides exceptions for amplified business and commercial speeches; therefore it discriminates based on content, not noise. In other words, you can blast messages advertising your printing business or urging others to “Vote no on Proposition XYZ” as loud as you want; but if the Orlando Police Officer standing 27 feet away from your car hears Adele belting out “Someone Like You” at the same volume, you will get a ticket or even worse. The constitution, by design, gives less protection to commercial speech than to other forms of expression. This statute flips this constitutional principle on its back by giving commercial speech greater freedom than artistic expression.
That begs the question – should a person be allowed to blast music from their car as loudly as they like? What about people in other cars or on the sidewalk who don’t particularly like your music – do they have rights? Is it fair that a person in the next lane is unable to hear their own music play because someone else’s music is drowning it out? Winston Churchill once said, “The right to swing your fist ends where the other man’s nose begins.” Does this apply to “ears” as well?
With the statute being ruled unconstitutional, what should be done to fix it? What do you think – should the law against loud music be scrapped entirely, or should it be expanded to prohibit all content? Is the rule “too much” or “not enough” when it comes to prohibiting drivers from cranking up the volume? Whatever your opinion is, feel free to shout it through a blow horn as you drive down the street. Being political in nature, it will be except from the current statute.