Florida Supreme Court Holds State Noise Law Unconstitutional

In an opinion issued on Thursday, December 13, 2012, the Florida Supreme Court declared Section 316.3045, Florida Statutes (2007), to be invalid. The law prohibits motorist from playing music or amplified sound at a volume that is “plainly audible” to someone 25 feet away.

Upholding a Second District Court of Appeal decision, State v. Catalano, 60 So. 3d 1139 (Fla. 2d DCA 2011), the Court held the statute is invalid because it is an unreasonable restriction on the freedom of expression. The Court also held the statute is not unconstitutionally vague, but is unconstitutionally overbroad and an impermissible content-based restriction.

Justice Jorge Labarga writing for the majority, stated the law is “content based” as it did not apply “equally to music, political speech and advertising”. The law provides an exemption to motor vehicles used for business and political purposes, thus treating commercial and political speech more favorably than noncommercial speech.

“For instance, business and political vehicles may amplify commercial or political speech at any volume, whereas an individual traversing the highways for pleasure would be issued a citation for listening to any type of sound, whether it is religious advocacy or music, too loudly,” he wrote. As such, the law was subject to the strict scrutiny analysis to determine whether it was a reasonable restriction or unconstitutionally overbroad.

The State argued that the primary purpose behind the law was traffic safety and protecting the public from excessively loud noise on public streets. The State further argued that the business and political exemption is based on the type of vehicle, and not the content of the message, because those vehicles do not present the same safety and noise pollution concerns as other vehicles. Thus, according to the State, the justification for the differential treatment, and the statue as a whole, is content neutral.

Categories: LitigationLocal GovernmentConstitutional Law
Tags: Governmental LitigationMunicipal GovernmentSpecial Counsel to Local GovernmentFlorida Supreme CourtMitchell A. BiermanJamie A. ColeChad S. FriedmanEdward G. GuedesMichael S. PopokJoseph H. SerotaRichard Jay WeissLaura K. WendellJames E. WhiteDavid M. WolpinFort Lauderdale Local Government LawMiami Local Government LawSouth Florida Local Government LawFort Lauderdale Municipal AttorneysMiami Municipal AttorneysSouth Florida Municipal AttorneysFort Lauderdale Appellate Law AttorneysMiami Appellate Law AttorneysSouth Florida Appellate Law AttorneysFort Lauderdale LitigatorsMiami LitigatorsFort Lauderdale Constitutional Law AttorneysMiami Constitutional Law AttorneysSouth Florida Constitutional Law AttorneysSouth Florida LitigatorsFlorida Litigation AttorneysFort Lauderdale Civil Litigation AttorneysMiami Litigation Attorney
Author(s): James E. White