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Thursday, Apr 24, 2014

Hillsborough sets $150 fine for breaking new noise law

Published:   |   Updated: February 20, 2014 at 05:35 AM

TAMPA — Motorists with excessively noisy car stereo systems best beware if they turn the volume up while driving in unincorporated Hillsborough County.

County commissioners unanimously approved a noise ordinance Wednesday that targets cars whose stereo systems are “plainly audible” from 50 feet. Offenders will face a fine of $150.

“We receive a ton of complaints on this and we need some tool to enforce it,” sheriff’s Col. Greg Brown told commissioners.

The county modeled its ordinance after one Tampa’s City Council passed in June that also uses the “plainly audible” at 50 feet language.

Florida cities and counties started passing local noise ordinances after the Florida Supreme Court struck down a state noise statute in December 2012 ruling. The court said the law was too broad and exempted commercial and political speech. However, the justices had no problem with the plainly audible standard.

“The supreme court in their decision did uphold this type of standard to be applied in the state,” Ed Helvenston, a senior assistant county attorney, told commissioners.

Only two people showed up for the public hearing on the ordinance, and they both supported passage.

Carl Mathews said he finds the booming music annoying but said it also causes his ears to ring for days when he gets too close.

“I hope the time has come to correct this problem in some way,” Mathews said. “A fine of $150 to most of these people is nothing. It needs to be a lot more.”

Gerald White said that after he heard the commission was considering an ordinance, he started paying attention to how many of the booming sound systems are audible on county roads. White said his informal study convinced him the law is necessary.

But White, who is African American, said he hoped Sheriff David Gee’s deputies would not use the ordinance to target black youngsters. He referenced the recent trial in Jacksonville where a white man was convicted of second degree murder for shooting and killing a black teenager because he wouldn’t turn down loud rap music.

“I respect Sheriff Gee and his whole staff,” White said. “But I want to say in this public hearing to him and all his deputies, I’m holding them accountable to not abuse this law ... we’re tired of seeing in the newspapers that our children are gunned down or shot or have been killed for no reason.”

Mathews also briefly mentioned the Jacksonville trial, saying for many people “the problem is the frustration that the public can’t do anything about” the loud music.

Tampa’s officials are considering expanding the city’s noise ordinance to encompass buildings. The city already has noise restrictions for downtown, Ybor City and Channelside. The City Council will discuss the matter March 2-0.

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