Car audio restrictions too arbitrary, unreasonable

In Florida, the sound of a car stereo cannot exceed a distance longer than 25 feet – an area that is shorter than an end zone on a football field.

Despite lacking the equipment to consistently and accurately record the loudness of a stereo, police have been enforcing the 25-foot noise ordinance since it was shortened from 100 feet in 2005.

Richard T. Catalano, a St. Petersburg lawyer, is still fighting a $73.50 ticket he received for violating the restriction in 2007, a case that may soon reach the Florida Supreme Court after several judges ruled in his favor.

At that short of a distance, practically any stereo is audible, especially if the windows are lowered – which is a must for those without air-conditioning – or if surrounding noise doesn’t drown out the sound.

It’s possible that the Florida Legislature may eliminate all car stereo bans if the court agrees that the term “plainly audible” is too vague when used in Florida statute 316.3045 to describe the restrictions.

Although allowing a free-for-all of stereo noise may be unwise, the suit still highlights important flaws in the state’s vehicle noise ordinances that should be addressed.

A “plainly audible” car stereo at 25-feet may be much quieter than sounds caused by a fully-loaded dump truck, a motorcycle pulling away from a traffic light, an ice cream truck’s music or noise at one of the countless road construction sites.

Of course, the restrictions don’t apply “to motor vehicles used for business or political purposes,” since these favor the politicians who enacted the ban and those who heavily contribute to their campaigns.

Regardless, the law is still too difficult to enforce fairly.

“He doesn’t know for sure, but, in his mind, they were plainly speeding. That’s just how ridiculous and preposterous this statute is,” Catalano, comparing the law to pulling over a speeder on Interstate 275 without using a radar gun, said to the St. Petersburg Times.

Most can probably agree that drivers shouldn’t be blasting their stereos at 3 a.m. while driving through a residential neighborhood, but that doesn’t mean desired noise restrictions should be arbitrary in nature.

Laws need to have a clear, consistent explanation of what constitutes a violation. It would be unimaginable if speed limits were listed as “fast,” “slow” and “medium.”

There should be no tolerance for laws that are enforced based on the fallible discretion of individual officers, especially ones that limit personal freedoms to such a drastic extent.