A bill allowing Florida law enforcement to lower the boom on loud music blaring from car stereos won approval from a state Senate committee on Monday.
The measure (SB 634) seeks to reinstate a law that was struck down by the Florida Supreme Court last year.
Ruling in a pair of Pinellas County cases in which both motorists were cited for playing their car radios too loudly, the high court said the law violated free speech rights partly because it exempted vehicles used for business or political purposes. The new rendition being considered by Florida lawmakers doesn't include those exemptions.
The new bill retains a key provision of the struck-down law that said a stereo must be "plainly audible" from 25 feet or more in order to be illegal. The high court did not have a problem with that requirement. Lawmakers discussing the bill Monday were told that 25 feet generally would amount to eight or nine steps.
The measure, which cleared the Senate Criminal Justice Committee on Monday, is supported by groups representing Florida's police chiefs and sheriffs.
Timothy Stanfield, representing the Florida Police Chiefs Association, said complaints about loud car stereos are a common refrain for police departments statewide.
The proposed violation would carry a $30 fine but no points would be assessed against people's driving records.
Law officers would have wide discretion whether to write a ticket for a loud-music violation. Usually just the threat of a ticket is enough to make people comply, Stanfield said.
"He generally just has to pull out his ticket book and say 'someone needs to turn down the stereo' and the stereo gets turned down," he said afterward.
Currently, the only recourse for police to punish someone for blaring their car stereo is a breach of the peace offense, a misdemeanor that carries up to a year in jail for a conviction, he said.
"Nobody wants to take anybody to jail for a loud car stereo," Stanfield said.
The bill drew some static from a couple of Democratic lawmakers who voted against it.
Sen. Christopher Smith, of Fort Lauderdale, said he was concerned that the violation would be a primary offense, meaning law enforcement could pull someone over just for cranking their car stereo.
Sen. Audrey Gibson, of Jacksonville, also worried about the bill being too intrusive.
"I like my music loud and I don't think I should have a ticket if my windows are up," she said.