A recent change in Florida law has given police officers new tools to crack down on noise. The bill, HB 1435, amended the state’s nuisance section and specifically targeted loud music. It is now a criminal offense if you play “loud or unendurable” music that disturbs your neighbors or whoever happens to be near you at that time.
It may seem obvious, but arrests don’t occur for disturbing your neighbors just because they don’t like the type of music you enjoy listening to. The new law only applies if the music is so loud and offensive that it endangers someone’s health or well-being, creates an unsafe environment for others nearby, or interferes with their ability to sleep. In other words, if your neighbor doesn’t mind the volume of your music and can still comfortably sleep or function normally in their day-to-day activities, this law does not apply to you.
For those planning to live or visit Florida, it is important to beware of the restrictions that require you to turn down car music volume. It qualifies to book you a ticket with the traffic police. The new Florida law took effect on July 11 and permits law enforcement officers to ticket drivers who play music loudly from the cars and surpasses the 25-feet limit. Driving while listening to music is a form of therapy for many people. However, the HB 1435 limits your right listen and drive.
What Constitutes New Florida Law?
Before we get into the penalties for playing loud music, let’s first discuss the specific decibel levels that could get you in trouble. Suppose you are hosting a party or enjoying a quiet evening at home with a few friends, and your music reaches an “unreasonable level,” as defined by Florida law. In that case, you could face criminal or civil penalties.
In Florida, “extreme noise” is “unreasonable” and warrants intervention by law enforcement. Neighbors may consider a your noise levels to be a “sound blast” according to federal law. You will likely face criminal charges if you play music anywhere near this level and someone calls the police.
If you’re hosting a party and your guests exceed these decibel levels, you can also receive charges under the new law. However, you don’t have to turn off the music just because a neighbor complains. An arrest occurs if a police officer determines that the noise is unreasonable.
Penalties for Playing Loud Music
As a first offense, you could face a $250 fine for exceeding the decibel levels discussed above. Second offenders could receive a penalty up to $500 and even face jail time. You may receive a civil infraction charge and a fine up to $100 if your neighbors complain about the noise and you refuse to turn it down. The exact penalties for loud music will vary depending on whether you are charged with a criminal or civil infraction. For example, criminal penalties are decided by a judge, while an administrative law judge decides civil penalties.
To offer clarity, the bill mentions that playing car music loudly in close proximity areas such as schools, hospitals, and churches goes against the law. A violation to the implemented new law qualifies a nonmoving violation ticket that amounts to $114. In a situation where you’d rather not have to spend the money on a citation, it’s helpful to know your options.
Is a Noise Ordinance Required?
Similar laws were previously trialled. In those trials, it failed to function as expected. The law was challenged in a lawsuit in 2012 at the Supreme Court. The ruling deemed ticketing people for playing loud music was unconstitutional. It violates the right to free speech. Some municipalities and counties in Florida have noise ordinances, but they vary by location. If you live in an area without a noise ordinance, you can still receive a charge for disturbing the peace and excessive noise if you exceed lawful decibel levels. However, if you live in an area with a noise ordinance, there are charges of simultaneously violating that law and the new law. If you play loud music and receive a change for violating a noise ordinance, you may receive an additional charge for a second crime.
Immediately contact a criminal defense attorney if you are under arrest for loud music and believe the charges are incorrect. This law is particularly subjective, and you should have an attorney review the details of your case. You should also know that you have the right to remain silent when questioned by police officers. In other words, you don’t have to speak with the officers and you don’t have to answer any questions. You can politely decline to speak with them and exercise your right to remain silent. You do not have to let them into your home or backyard. And you do not have to let them search your car or bag. You also have the right to ask for a lawyer who can advise you of your rights and protect you from any false or misleading statements.
If you play loud music, know Florida law’s around reasonable and unreasonable decibel levels. You should also be aware of the potential penalties for playing loud music, including fines and jail time. If you are hosting a party, ensure your guests know the decibel levels and do not play excessively loud music. Many Floridians support the law to retain a calm and peaceful neighborhood. Although numerous merits come with this law, questions arise around infringing on personal freedoms.