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OPINION: Vague wording of new law makes officers afraid to enforce it

The wording of this law must be changed so that officers are able to enforce it without fear of being accused of discrimination. SPECIAL TO THE ORACLE/FLICKR

House Bill 1435, which states that sound coming from a vehicle cannot be “plainly audible at a distance of 25 feet or more,” was passed in Florida last July, but seven months later very few have received citations, according to a Feb. 10 WTSP 10 article.

The generalized wording of the bill allows officers to be accused of discrimination based on who they pull over, leaving them afraid to enforce this law at all. To eliminate any personal bias, decibel readers should be used to determine loudness.

Currently, HB 1435 states sound must not be “louder than necessary for the convenient hearing by persons inside the vehicle in areas adjoining private residences, churches, schools, or hospitals.” 

Since the law was passed in July, only four tickets have been written by the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office. None have been written by Tampa PD, according to WTSP 10.

“I don’t want to be the officer that’s going to be called out for racial profiling or stopping this person because I don’t like their music. Because that’s what it’s going to come down to – is that I don’t like their music,” St. Petersburg Police Chief Anthony Holloway said in an interview with WTSP 10.

There should be no room for officers to interpret this as racial profiling. There is a need for this law, as people should feel at peace in their own homes and not be disturbed by blaring music, and officers should feel empowered to enforce it.

Some students are already concerned about the implications of this new law and how it will be enforced.

“I think even though the law has not been enforced, a law simply being in existence leaves the possibility for it to be enforced,” junior and psychology major Hanah Ball said in a Monday interview with The Oracle.

“This is not surprising, yet it is clearly a movement away from what should be the intended goal of the police,” Ball said. “Is it really that big of a problem? Or do white people just not want people of color in their neighborhoods?”

The vague interpretations of this law could be fixed with a few tweaks. For example, a decibel limit would give a clearer definition of what is considered loud as opposed to how far away you can hear something. Decibel readers are fairly inexpensive and would be considered an investment if the problem is so large. 

With more specific guidelines to determine what people can and cannot get ticketed for and the use of technology like decibel readers, the personal peace of homes can be preserved while making Florida a safer place.