ORLANDO, Fla. — One year into a new Florida law, regulating how loud you can play music in your car, 9 Investigates how often officers are writing tickets and who is most often cited.
At its onset, critics worried Florida’s ‘loud music law’ would lead to profiling. Investigative Reporter Karla Ray gathered data from a dozen local agencies, and found it’s rarely being used at all.
“I spent about $570 for the whole thing, including the wiring and everything,” Marion County teen Nicholas Didato said of his stereo system, which was loud enough to lead to a citation for violating Florida’s loud music law.
“Man, I’ve got a lot of equipment in there,” another man, Daron Parsons, said. “I’ve got like, over 12 or 15 sub(woofers)… in all, probably like 100-or-something speakers in that little car.”
Both young men have packed their vehicles to rock the road, and they’re among the first to receive citations under Florida law which allows law enforcement to ticket someone playing audio that can be heard more than 25 feet away.
“I didn’t think that, you know, they would really enforce it like that,” Didato said, after he was given a ticket in his high school parking lot.
“It’s ridiculous, though, because it’s just music,” Parsons said.
9 Investigates requested data from the largest law enforcement agencies in Central Florida. Of the ten that responded, fewer than 90 total citations had been written. Attorney Jeff Lotter, who is a former FHP trooper, says any music could put you at risk.
“A police officer on the sidewalk is going to hear audio coming out of my vehicle, even at low levels,” Lotter said.
Of the cases we compiled, nearly 80% cited were either black or listed as white with Hispanic surnames. Based on the low total of citations, Lotter doesn’t believe that’s an indication of profiling.
Still, he says agencies should be paying close attention to these cases, to make sure profiling doesn’t happen.
“Certainly a concern, but I haven’t seen that come through,” Lotter said. “I think law enforcement has a lot of discretion across the board, though the supervisor should definitely be watching for the statute.”
Didato and Parsons are using discretion, too; but not turning their speakers off for good.
“I don’t really want to be racking up a heap of money, you know, paying for tickets all the time,” Parsons said.
Of the cases we looked through, most who were cited simply paid the fine, but a few fought the case in court and won. Lotter says that’s a risk not everyone will take, and there’s no guarantee it’ll work.
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