Corporate attorney Richard Catalano can now blast his Justin Timberlake CD as loud as he likes when he’s in Tampa Bay. Catalano has led a 3 ½ year crusade against the city’s noise ordinance after being ticketed $73.50 for listening to his Timberlake CD too loud in his Infiniti G35. But his victory came this past month when the appellate court ruled in his favor.
The 2nd District Court of Appeals in Lakeland ruled the noise ordinance was unconstitutionally vague and violated the First Amendment. The problem, they say, is that it allows for a political pundit, for example, to blast a bull horn from one vehicle while another, Catalano’s for example, can be ticketed—the law isn’t content neutral.
Despite the seemingly minor nature of this case, counties across the state were watching for this verdict. Many communities are concerned with noise pollution, but writing an effective ordinance without violating the constitution is tricky.
The law in Tampa said that anything that can be hear d from 25 feet away is plainly audible and illegal. But this ordinance wasn’t being enforced equally across the board. As the court stated, “There is no compelling government interest requiring disparate treatment of commercial or political speech vs. amplified music.”
In a similar case, the 2nd District Court of Appeals ruled differently and has asked the Supreme Court of Florida to take up the case. In Catalano’s case, it’s believed the Attorney General’s Office is likely to appeal the decision as well.
According to the St. Petersburg Times, there are antinoise activists who believe loud music isn’t only aggravating; it’s a “Proven threat to public safety and health.” For them, the fight isn’t over as they seek an anti-noise ordinance that will quiet the neighborhoods and keep the pop music from spilling out onto their otherwise quiet streets.
Though violating a noise ordinance isn’t a criminal offense, other seemingly minor annoyances are often classified as “disorderly conduct”, which is against the law. What constitutes disorderly conduct is often determined by the cop at the scene and then hashed out in court. Needless to say, many disorderly conduct cases are dismissed because they don’t amount to behavior that puts the public at any type of risk.
If you are facing charges of disorderly conduct or anything else that you believe has been exaggerated by police, contact our offices today to discuss your case and to see how we might be able to help.