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Officer sues teen he cited for noise violation for blasting music near his house

CLEARWATER — An Indian Shores police officer says a teen whom he cited for a noise violation has been retaliating by showing up in his neighborhood and blasting loud music at his home.

In a lawsuit filed Thursday in Pinellas small claims court, Officer Shaun Griffin says that two days after he cited Robert J. Tennant IV, 18, for excessive loud music, the teen showed up at his house and blasted music from an empty lot next door.

Griffin says the teen has been back several times, waking him up while he sleeps and disturbing his privacy. The lawsuit seeks damages and a ban preventing Tennant from playing music in Griffin's neighborhood in Seminole.

Jeremy T. Simons, Griffin's attorney, said he believes this is the first case in Florida where someone has sought to stop loud noise with a lawsuit.

"We hope to open up the door to home­owners who are consistently barraged with noise," Simons said.

Tennant couldn't be reached for comment. His father, Robert J. Tennant III, said he didn't know anything about the suit.

Generally, people with complaints about noise call police or county code enforcers, who investigate. A warning is common for a first offense, followed by a fine. County ordinances regulate noise in residential neighborhoods and prohibit noise from car stereos that is loud enough to be heard more than 25 feet away.

But Simons said those laws are "not being enforced right now … there still needs to be a remedy for private citizens."

Simons said things could worsen if an ongoing court battle results in a noise statute being struck down. Right now, the statute says that it's unlawful for a car to play music that is "plainly audible" from 25 feet or more away.

St. Petersburg lawyer Richard T. Catalano, who is fighting a 2007 noise citation, says that statute is unconstitutional because "plainly audible" isn't specific. A panel of circuit court judges agreed with him, but the state has appealed the decision, which could take the case all the way to the Florida Supreme Court.

If the law is ultimately struck down, all related noise ordinances would be, as well. Simons says in that case, homeowners would have no option but to sue.

Tennant has been cited for noise violations three times, according to Pinellas County traffic records.

He first received a warning in April 2009 from Pinellas County sheriff's deputies. A month later he received his first citation for playing music too loud while driving along Gulf Boulevard.

On May 3, Griffin heard loud music coming from Tennant's Jeep as he drove down Gulf Boulevard. Griffin and another officer gave Tennant his third noise citation. On May 5, Tennant came to Griffin's home, saw Griffin, then returned to his car and "blasted" loud music, the suit states.

Sara Gregory can be reached at (727) 893-8785 or sgregory@sptimes.com.

Officer sues teen he cited for noise violation for blasting music near his house 08/05/10 [Last modified: Friday, August 6, 2010 12:07am]
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