Beginning July 1, a law was enacted in Florida making it illegal to play music too loud.
According to the Official Site of the Florida Legislature, the statutes of the law dictate that it’s illegal to play music that can be heard 25 feet or further from the vehicle; this stipulation doesn’t apply when near specific locations such as churches, schools, or hospitals. Instead, these venues are policed under the description of being “louder than necessary for the convenient hearing by persons inside the vehicle.”
Violations of this law allow police to initiate a traffic stop and cite a fine of up to $114.
The law has raised many red flags in the eyes of rights activists and concerned citizens. In interviews done by the WFLA, civilians expressed their opinions. Jayden Yawn said, “I don’t like that. That’s not cool at all. It’s like, you could be driving around having fun, playing the music loud with the windows down and could be fined for that. That’s not cool,” Jaiden Pumarejo told reporters, “You’re gonna fine me for having fun?”
Members of civil rights organizations and knowledgeable activists took to Twitter to point out the arbitrary nature of the law.
“If the windows are down, low volume can be heard. This includes parked cars (so it is not about safety). Effectively, this bans people from listening to music and gives police a blank check to pull over. Where does distance start? Bad law, unreasonable.” Professor Ben Alonzo wrote.
If the windows are down, low volume can be heard. This includes parked cars (so it is not about safety). Effectively, this bans people from listening to music and gives police a blank check to pull over. Where does distance start? Bad law, unreasonable. https://t.co/t4xNRDw2RD
— Professor Ben Alonzo (@benbiotic) June 25, 2022
Others continued to point out the blatant targeting intention “There should be no mistake that this Florida law making it illegal to play loud music in a car is intended to target Black people and to give the police more discretion to stop and search them.”
One user posted. Another said, “This law is STRICTLY for Black people! The exceptions for loud music are pop, country, rock, and Eminem, or rap music in general if whites are bumpin’ it.”
There should be no mistake that this Florida law making it illegal to play loud music in a car is intended to target Black people, and to give the police more discretion to stop and search them. https://t.co/krUgLgKpXu
— Alec Karakatsanis (@equalityAlec) June 30, 2022
There’s an intensive history of white people imparting violence against black bodies simply for doing everyday things – playing loud music is a common culprit in these cases. The Julian Johnson law firm – an LLC specifically specializing in civil rights work – outlined a few instances and their correlation to the issue.
Last year, a Black 19-year-old named Aiden Ellison was shot in the chest and killed by Robert Keegan – a middle-aged white man, as reported by CNN. The incident occurred in the parking lot of a public hotel in Ashland, Oregon. The altercation began over Ellison playing “too loud” music, and Keegan deemed it necessary to draw a gun and kill the young boy. Keegan pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder, first-degree manslaughter, unlawful firearm possession, and recklessly endangering another person.
In 2012, 17-year-old Jordan Davis was killed at a Florida gas station by another white man – Michael Dunn. He cited that Davis and his friend played their music too loudly. Dunn fired ten bullets into the young man’s SUV as they sat inside. Dunn also attempted to plead not guilty to first-degree murder and three counts of attempted second-degree murder and dared to appeal his guilty sentence.
The dangerousness of this new law relates closely to these incidents. The Julian Johnson law firm said it best: “Black youth are always seen through the lens of criminality and are most often subjected to a quick escalation in violence from citizens and law enforcement.”
The new law legally criminalizes playing loud music; not only does it open the door for officers to use their discretion that may be based on implicit biases, but it also offers a basis of justification for people who already feel entitled to harm Black people for doing non-threatening things.