For people blasting their music while cruising down the street, it will start costing them more than dirty looks from fellow drivers, according to a new state law.
On May 26 Gov. Ron DeSantis signed HB 1435, which prohibits a motorist from playing music or an amplified sound that is ‘plainly audible’ to someone 25 feet away. The new law is a revision of a 2007 law that was struck down by the Florida Supreme Court in 2012 and deemed unconstitutional on free speech restrictions because it exempted political and commercial vehicles from being fined.
With HB 1435, only emergency vehicles will have an exemption. And the law designates quiet zones near homes, churches, schools and hospitals.
Local law enforcement agencies will initially educate drivers and warn them before handing out citations, which can top out at $114 per ticket.
“I think that you’ll find, as with many new laws, there’s a learning curve here, and I think you’ll see a lot of warnings passed out getting people used to it and letting them know ‘Hey, there is a new law,’” said Alachua County Sheriff’s Office (ACSO) spokesperson Art Forgey. “The other [2007 law] was unconstitutional, so during this last legislative session they worked the bugs out of it, came up with this new one, and I think it’s good for everyone. It will hopefully tone down some of the things that we hear going through our neighborhoods all the time.”
Gainesville Police Department (GPD) Capt. Robert Finelli said officers will use the month of July as a grace period before enforcing the state law.
“We haven’t pushed out enforcement efforts yet,” Finelli said. “What we’re planning on doing a minimum of 30 days is not actually issuing violations until August 1, so we’re going to try and take at least the month of July to do education and outreach on the new statute. So any driver that is pulled over will be receiving a warning until August 1 and then we’ll start enforcement efforts.”
In Columbia County, Lake City Police Department (LCPD) spokesperson Greg Burnsed said the department is training officers on what is different between the 2007 and 2022 law so they can explain it to the public.
“We’ll put out a training bulletin showing the new statute that will show the old statute and the case law that shows why it was deemed unconstitutional before, so if [ officers are] dealing with a citizen on this statute, they can explain how it’s just going back into effect with the rewording,” Burnsed said. “We’ll remind the officers of what it was before, why we lost it and how it’s different now and back into effect.”
Officers will be discretionary when it comes to enforcing the law.
“In the statute it says if it’s plainly audible from 25 feet or more,” said ACSO’s Forgey. “I think what [the deputies] are going to be looking at are the [drivers] that when you’re a quarter of a mile away—and I’m just saying that facetiously—but you’re quite some distance away and it is plainly audible, you can make out the words, you can make out the music and all.”
Finelli added that it will be fairly obvious who the offenders are.
“It will have to be blatantly loud,” he said. “If you can hear from four or five car lengths away, half a block away, you know where it’s clearly more than 25 feet.”
Now that the new statute gives law enforcement agencies teeth to clamp down on noise, local communities should benefit from quieter neighborhoods and driving around town—which law enforcement hopes will lower the number of complaints.
“We receive a lot of them, maybe not so much people calling it in because many times it’s a car passing through their neighborhood, so by the time they call it in the noise is gone,” Forgey said. “Where we see it a lot is people sending us messages on social media, people sending us messages through the Contact Us portal on the website, out in neighborhoods when we’re out talking to people, and they’re talking about quality of life issues. That’s where we see it more than we see it getting called in.”
Burnsed said that the problem is prevalent in Lake City.
“We receive many, many complaints about it,” he said. “And we’ve had to educate the public as to why we couldn’t do anything. So as we put out social media notices that its coming back, we’re getting a lot of thumbs up and thank yous and ‘hope you start off quickly.’”