MOTOR VEHICLES; NOISE CONTROL;
POLLUTION - NOISE;
November 4, 2003
FLORIDA LAW ON EXCESSIVE STEREO NOISE FROM MOTOR VEHICLES
By: James J. Fazzalaro, Principal Analyst
You asked for an explanation of a Florida law regarding excessive noise from motor vehicle sound systems, whether any other states have this type of law, and how Connecticut law compares.
The Florida law in which you are interested makes it illegal for anyone operating or occupying a motor vehicle on a street or highway to operate or amplify the sound produced by a radio, tape player, or other mechanical sound making device from within the vehicle so that the sound is (1) plainly audible at a distance of 100 feet or more from the vehicle or (2) louder than necessary for the convenient hearing of those inside the vehicle in areas adjoining churches, schools, or hospitals (Florida Stat. § 316. 3045). Vehicles exempt from the requirements include law enforcement vehicles and emergency vehicles with communication devices necessary for performing official duties, vehicles used for business or political purposes that use sound making devices in the normal course of conducting business, and vehicle horns or other warning devices required or permitted by law.
The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles must adopt rules defining “plainly audible” and establishing standards for how sound should be measured by law enforcement personnel enforcing the requirement of the law.
Violations of the noise law are noncriminal traffic infractions punishable as nonmoving violations. This appears to result in a $ 30 fine and $ 16 court cost assessment (§ 318. 18).
We found similar laws in Georgia and Wisconsin. The Georgia law is worded almost identically to the Florida law, except that it contains no provision with respect to noise near churches, schools or hospitals (Ga. Stat. § 40-6-14). In Wisconsin, the law prohibits someone from operating or parking, stopping, or leaving a motor vehicle standing while using a radio or other electric sound amplification device emitting sound that is audible under normal conditions from a distance of 75 feet or more unless the device is being used to request assistance or warn against an unsafe condition. The prohibition does not apply to (1) authorized emergency vehicles when responding to emergencies; (2) public utility vehicles; (3) vehicles used for advertising purposes; (4) vehicles used in community events, celebrations, processions, or assemblages; (4) the activation of a theft alarm, or (5) a motorcycle operating outside a business or residence district (Wisc. Stat. § 346. 94 (16)). The fine is $ 40 to $ 80 for the first offense and $ 100 to $ 200 for a second or subsequent offense.
Connecticut law requires every motor vehicle and the devices on it to be operated, equipped, constructed, and adjusted to prevent “unnecessary or unusual noise” (CGS § 14-80). It also requires the motor vehicle commissioner to establish maximum noise levels for vehicles. These range from 72 to 92 decibels depending on vehicle type, location, and traveling speed. For most passenger-type vehicles, the noise levels are 72 to 81 decibels. The maximum noise level includes the “total noise generated by a vehicle” (CGS § 14-80a and Conn. Agencies Regs. § 14-80a-4a). These restrictions are primarily meant to cover mechanical noise, but could be read to include noise from sound equipment. Violations are infractions and result in a total amount of fines, fees, surcharges and other costs of $ 92 when paid by mail.
We have enclosed a copy of OLR Report 97-R-0882 which describes some other ways, such as common law nuisance claims and public disturbance laws that could be used to address loud car stereo noise.