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Published May 12, 2011

A Florida law that allows police to ticket drivers for playing their car stereos too loudly was ruled unconstitutional Wednesday by a Lakeland appeals court.

Judge Anthony K. Black, of the Second District Court of Appeal, concluded that the state law limiting the volume of audio in a car (316.3045) is unconstitutional because the law restricts loud music but excludes loud political or business speech.

"The statute is a content-based restriction on free expression which violates the First Amendment," Black wrote in his 16-page ruling.

The case was brought by Richard T. Catalano, a Clearwater attorney, and Alexander Schermerhorn, who received citations for playing their car music too loudly.

Because the statute exempted audio of a political or business nature but placed volume restrictions on amplified music, the court held that the restriction was content based and therefore in violation of constitutional protections against regulation of speech based on content.

Under the law, police can stop drivers and impose a $30 fine for driving with music too loud. A bill to increase the penalies was filed this session by Sen. Steve Oelrich, R-Cross Creek, the former Alachua County sheriff. He wanted to increase the penalties for offenders but the measure -- which would have imposed a fine of $120 fine for a second violation and $180 for a third violation -- failed by a 16-20 vote in the final week of the session.

Rep. Oscar Braynon, D-Miami, led the charge against the bill. "It points to a certain population that prefers this music, prefers the music playing this loud," said Braynon, 34. "I happen to like to play my music a little louder."

Posted by Mary Ellen Klas at 6:02:09 pm on May 11, 2011