Supreme Court hears challenge to law against loud car stereos

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Florida Supreme Court hearings don’t often involve boom boxes and subwoofers. But justices Thursday took up a constitutional challenge to a state law that allows motorists to get cited for blasting their car stereos. Attorney Richard Catalano, who got a ticket in 2007 in St. Petersburg, argued that justices should toss out the law, which says a stereo is too loud if it is “plainly audible” from 25 feet away. At one point during the arguments, Catalano slowly backed away from the podium and asked justices in a conversational tone, “Am I plainly audible now?” Timothy Osterhaus, a state deputy solicitor general, said the law was intended to improve safety, as drivers would be better able to hear sounds of such things as emergency vehicles. But Justice Jorge Labarga questioned that argument, saying the law would allow loud boom boxes on top of cars but not loud stereos inside. Also, Labarga questioned an exception for political speech coming from a vehicle such as a sound truck. “I don’t see how it is safer to hear a politician make a speech than to hear a preacher give a sermon,” Labarga said. “Where do you draw the line?” Catalano said his windows were up when he got ticketed. He acknowledged, however, that he had a subwoofer in his trunk. “You’re lucky that’s all you had in your trunk,” replied Justice Barbara Pariente, drawing laughter in the courtroom.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.