Florida’s Loud Music Law Targeting Black Drivers?

May 10, 2023 Criminal Defense, News & Announcements

We have previously covered the 2022 loud music law passed in Florida, which gives law enforcement the ability to ticket drivers for driving or sitting in their cars with too-loud music. The bill has been met with both backlash and confusion, as those who have been ticketed claim police do not have a sound-measuring device. In addition, a recent UF study claims the new law is disproportionately targeting Black drivers.

This page will briefly cover Florida’s loud music law, UF’s analysis of the data obtained a year after the law’s passing, along with several example cases.

Florida’s Loud Music Law

In 2022, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a new bill into place to prevent drivers from playing their music too loud. Under Florida Statute Section 316.3045, it is unlawful for any person operating or occupying a motor vehicle to amplify music or any loud sound, when it emanates from the motor vehicle and the sound is:

  • Plainly audible at 25 feet or more from the motor vehicle; or
  • Louder than necessary for convenient hearing by persons inside the vehicle in areas near private residences, churches, schools, or hospitals.

Any violation of the above statute can result in a noncriminal traffic infraction, often resulting in fines between $114 and $129.

Analysis by UF

The University of Florida College of Journalism and Communication published a report analyzing Florida’s loud music law and its potential bias towards Black drivers in Florida.

According to the report, Black drivers received 37% of the tickets for loud music violations. This is despite Black individuals only making up 16% of the State’s driving-eligible population. The report indicated that Black drivers were cited by law enforcement at a rate of over 11 tickets per 100,000 Black drivers. In comparison, white drivers were cited by law enforcement at a rate of 3.9 tickets per 100,000 white drivers.

In addition, the analysis claimed that white non-Hispanic drivers were given 46% of the loud music tickets, with white non-Hispanic people making up 56% of the driving-eligible drivers in Florida. The report indicated the remainder of loud music tickets were identified as Hispanic or “other,” including multiracial or Native American.

The analysis used drivers’ dates of birth and license plate numbers to track them down for interviews. However, now a new law is being pushed in Florida to prohibit driver information on traffic tickets or crash reports from being released.

While Section 316.3045 seems to be constitutionally construed, i.e. it doesn’t explicitly discriminate against a specific group, its application by law enforcement may show an application bias. In other words, even if the law is not discriminating against black drivers, it looks like officers use it to discriminate against them.

Example Cases

The following example cases highlight instances where Black drivers in Florida are being cited for traffic infractions under the new loud music law:

  • Carven Exantus – The 34-year-old Black Miami resident has been ticketed five times for Florida’s new loud music law. Each ticket was $129 each, given by Miami Beach police. He received two tickets on the same day, only 90 minutes apart in October. Exantus beat four of the tickets in court so far, and is pleading not guilty for the most recent ticket from March 9th, 2023.

Exantus has tried to insist law enforcement suspend the loud music law: “Stop being racists, simple,” Exantus said. “Something is disproportionately affecting one group, and it’s designed to be that way. If it’s walking and quacking like a duck, it’s a duck. It’s racist.”

  • Fred Laurice Johnson – Exantus’ business partner, 33-year-old Johnson, has received four tickets in Miami Beach for having his music too loud. Each ticket was $129, and he has already beat one ticket due to the judge dismissing the case after the officer didn’t show up to testify. Both Exantus and Johnson claim they have never witnessed an officer use any sound-measuring device before writing a ticket for loud music.

“It’s up to the cop’s discretion,” Exantus said. “I’ve asked, ‘Can you show me and prove to me that we’re being too loud?’ Then they get really mad, and they’ll definitely give me two tickets after that.”

  • Rondrae Thomas Wright – The 49-year-old Coral Springs resident was cited for a loud music ticket in Fort Lauderdale on July 1st, 2022 while operating a three-wheeled motorcycle near the oceanfront. The police officer claimed to be able to hear Wright’s music even after he was driving away from him. Wright fought the ticket in court two months later and won. Afterward, Wright claimed he felt targeted by police.

“That was exactly what that was about,” Wright said during an interview. “I was like, damn, my radio is not even loud. I couldn’t believe he did that.”

  • Sim Oliver Crum Jr. – The 46-year-old has been ticketed three times for having their music too loud. Two of the tickets were in October, cited by the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, and one was in December from the Gainesville Police.

“I don’t like nothing about that law, period,” Crum said. “You should be able to play music if you want. What do they have to do to prove they can hear you play your music from 25 feet away?”

Police Responses

Since the loud music bill passed into law, police have maintained the goal of reducing the number of cars driving with loud music. The following lists the reported loud music tickets given to citizens in different Florida regions:

  • Miami Police Department – 65 loud music tickets over a six-month period, with 18 tickets for Black drivers, 27 tickets for white drivers, and 20 tickets to drivers identified as “other;”
  • Daytona Beach Police – 17 loud music tickets (over one weekend in June)
  • Miami Beach Police – 155 loud music tickets, with 75 tickets for Black drivers;
  • Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office – 67 loud music tickets, with 49 tickets for Black drivers;
  • Gainesville Police Department – 26 loud music tickets, with 21 tickets for Black drivers;
  • Orange County Sheriff’s Office – Together with the Orlando Police Department, OCSO wrote 37 tickets for too-loud music, which included 21 tickets for Black drivers, 12 for Hispanic drivers, and only four for white drivers.

A new Florida law may create more difficulty in tracking how the loud music law is enforced and whether it creates a bias against Black drivers.

New Florida Law to Block Driver Information

In June, Gov. DeSantis signed a bill that would block the release of certain driver information from either a crash report or traffic tickets.

SB 1614 titled Public Records/Motor Vehicle Crashes/Traffic Citations went into effect on March 1st, 2023. Under the new law, it expands a current public records exemption related to personal information in a crash report, which shall make computerized data confidential and exempt from public inspection and copying requirements.

A crash report is available to the media, provided it does not include either party’s home or work address, driver’s license, identification number, date of birth, or home or work phone numbers. However, some warn about the new legislation’s ability to prevent scrutiny of how police ticket drivers.

“Without the redacted traffic citation information, it’s harder to track tickets and we can’t see if they’re being disproportionately issued in certain areas,” Sen. Lori Berman warned during last year’s debate on the bill.

Finding a Defense Attorney in Tallahassee, Florida  

If you or someone you love has been ticketed under Florida’s loud music law and you believe it was under racial bias or other discrimination, we highly advise that you reach out to a legal professional in your area. Getting accused of a criminal offense is extremely stressful. When pulled over for a traffic stop, always maintain a calm composure with the police. If you have received a criminal charge, contact a skilled defense attorney who will fight for your case to get dismissed or lessened.

Don Pumphrey and his team have spent years representing those in Florida who need legal protection. We vow to stand by your side throughout the entire process, answering any questions you may have and ensuring your rights are protected. Call our office today at (850) 681-7777 or leave an online message on our site. Our Pumphrey Law Firm attorneys are here to provide your case with a free consultation.

Written by Karissa Key

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