First Amendment Right to Blast Music to Be Considered by Florida Supreme Court

The issue of whether it's the First Amendment right of Florida drivers to blast obnoxious music from their cars way louder than anyone needs to will be heard before the Florida Supreme Court.

The court scheduled today for oral arguments to be heard on the matter on February 9.

The case surrounds two men, one of whom is a practicing attorney, who were both cited by police for playing their car stereos too loudly.

The ACLU is on board with the challenge, according to a brief it filed on behalf of the men, arguing that the ordinance may be "unconstitutionally vague, overbroad, arbitrarily enforceable, or infringing on free speech rights."

This isn't the first time the loud music issue has been in a Florida courtroom as of late, including the case of a Marion County resident named Shannon Montgomery.

An appellate court ruled last month that Montgomery should not have been pulled over by the cops for the music blaring from his car, which led to police discovering healthy amounts of cocaine and marijuana in his vehicle.

That led Montgomery to face charges of trafficking cocaine, possessing marijuana, and possessing drug paraphernalia -- all stemming from a Florida law that makes it illegal for a vehicle's sound system to be "plainly audible at a distance of 25 feet or more from the motor vehicle."

The term "plainly audible" isn't described in Florida law, which led Montgomery's lawyers to argue that the law was vague, but the court didn't agree with that claim -- the opinion states that the law "provides fair notice of the prohibited conduct..."

On a challenge of First Amendment rights, however, the court agreed on that point -- loud and obnoxious music is protected speech, and the law is "unconstitutionally overbroad."

In fact, the court ruled that the law discriminates against certain types of speech, giving commercial speech more protection.

"In this case, music or a religious message amplified so as to be heard twenty-five feet away from a vehicle would violate the statute, while a sound truck blaring 'Eat at Joe's' or 'Vote for Smith' plainly audible at a great distance, would be authorized," the opinion states. "Clearly, the statute discriminates on the basis of content, not noise."

Montgomery wasn't exactly the victor in the ruling, though -- the drug charges are going to stick, since the court ruled that the cops found the drugs due to "good faith conduct."

In the impending Supreme Court case, the state obviously disagrees with the claims of unconstitutionality.

According to a filing from the Attorney General's Office, the state law -- as well as county and city ordinances -- "addresses a serious nationwide problem that afflicts every state and every local community: noise pollution."

The state offers some archaic U.S. Supreme Court rulings that upheld similar laws with inexact language about how loud something is.

All of the filings in the case can be found here, and the clerk of the Supreme Court has scheduled the oral arguments for 9 a.m. on February 9.

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Matthew Hendley
Contact: Matthew Hendley