7 months after new Florida music law enacted, not many tickets given
The new law makes audible car music heard from 25 feet a citable offense.
Disturbing the peace
Listening to a neighbor's sigh of relief.
Still lots of noise
A year into the new law, very few tickets were given.
3 strikes and you're out
St. Petersburg's top cop is looking for a 'quality of life.'
Tampa Mayor Jane Castor speaks
Police are seeking solid legal ground, she says.
It’s been seven months since Florida enacted a new law aimed at getting drivers to turn down the volume — or at least roll up their windows.
The new law was music to the ears of people who say loud music shakes their windows and disturbs the peace. But more than half a year later, the number of people who’ve actually gotten citations is shockingly low.
Disturbing the peace: Listening to a neighbor's sigh of relief.
Seven months ago, Clay Daniels finally got the headache helper he’d been asking — if not begging for. After spending decades at city council meetings, pleading for them to do something about cars blasting loud music near his East Tampa home, Daniels finally got his wish.
In July 2022, the state legislature enacted a new law giving cops the power to write people a ticket for blasting their car stereo.
“I feel great. I feel like I caught the lottery,” Daniels told us then. “It’s like a boom boom boom. Your whole house be shaking. Your windows be rattling. It is terrible. You know, it’s a terrible way to live.”
“I think they’re going to write a lot of tickets with this new law because they got away with it so long they think they can still get away with it,” he said.
Still lots of noise: A year into the new law, very few tickets were given.
It turns out Daniels was only half right. People do still think they can get away with it. But in the half-a-year-plus that the law has been on the books, local law enforcement agencies have not written a lot of tickets.
In fact, despite how many people out there crank up their car stereos every day, police agencies have written very few tickets.
The law might seem fairly straightforward. It says a police officer who hears plainly audible music at a distance of 25 feet or more can write a citation. It usually runs about $114.
But a sampling of local agencies found the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office had written just four tickets in seven months. Sarasota police told us they had written three.
In Pasco County, the sheriff’s office had written none. And it was the same for the cities of Tampa and St. Petersburg.
Lots of noise – no tickets.
3 strikes and you're out: St. Petersburg's top cop is looking for a 'quality of life.'
“There’s a lot of laws on the books that I could put six officers out right now and say OK, we’re going to enforce this law today. That doesn’t mean that we need to enforce that law. It’s really looking for a quality of life,” St. Petersburg Police Chief Anthony Holloway explained.
Holloway says when the law was first passed, some community leaders expressed concern that certain segments of the population might be targeted.
The department uses a "three strikes and you're out" rule to reduce any appearance of racial profiling. It's two warnings, then a citation.
When we spoke with the chief, his officers had logged eight warnings. No tickets.
“I think that the officers are looking at this as though it is vague, so to speak, and 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,” Holloway said.
In Tampa, we made a similar records request and they, too, had written no tickets for the new law.
In a statement, TPD said it was “…waiting to implement enforcement pending the adoption of rules and standards related to the statute by the Department of Highway safety and motor vehicles.”
Tampa Mayor Jane Castor speaks: Police are seeking solid legal ground, she says.
Mayor Jane Castor defended the department.
“I mean, officers always wanna be on solid legal ground. And you have to look at the fact that the statutes would be vetted prior to passing them and allowing the officers to enforce them,” Castor said.
Section 3 of the new law does, in fact, charge the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles with adopting rules defining “plainly audible, and establishing standards regarding how sound should be measured by law enforcement personnel.”
Without those rules, departments said they weren’t certain which standards to apply.
“What noise are you talking about?” Holloway said. “I mean, I love jazz music. You may love rock music. And the next person may love rap music. So, you’ve got to try to figure out where is that spot? Do you want to make sure that this law wasn’t just created to go after a certain type of individual, or certain type of people listening to certain types of music?”
We asked the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles for an update on those plainly audible standards and were told they issued guidance on Jan. 17.
They said officers need only use their ears to hear the loud music and need to have a direct line of sight and hearing to the vehicle in question.
An officer does not need to determine particular words or phrases, the name of the song or the artist.
Most agencies were still issuing warnings, trying to educate the community, they said, about a law on the books for more than half a year now. Even as those waiting for a little peace and quiet hope, whether it’s enforced or not, people will do the right thing.
“What you’re doing is you’re violating my rights, forcing me to listen to your music. Which, I don’t want to hear,” Daniels said. “It’s about law and order and being respectful to your neighbors. People don’t want to hear your noise, you know?”