TALLAHASSEE, Fla. Dec 13 (Reuters) - Motorist Richard
Catalano's five-year quest to crank up Justin Timberlake tunes
on his way to work won the blessing of the Florida Supreme Court
In a unanimous ruling, the state's highest court affirmed a
pair of lower-court opinions that a 2007 state law prohibiting
loud music while driving violated the U.S. Constitution's First
Amendment, which guarantees freedom of expression.
Catalano received a $73 ticket in 2007 for violating the
newly enacted law that prohibited motorists from playing music
that is "plainly audible" 25 feet (7.6 meters) away. Motorists
traveling by hospitals, schools and churches were subjected to
even stricter standards.
Catalano, a Clearwater lawyer, challenged the law as
subjective, arguing that determining whether music was too loud
was in the ears of the beholder.
Further, the law provides listeners with fewer protections
than drivers of vehicles emitting political or commercial
speech, who have more explicit protections under the U.S.
Calling the law overly broad, Justice Jorge Labarga wrote
that noncommercial speech was also protected. Though rejecting
the notion that the law was too vague, Labarga said the state
showed no compelling interest in muzzling audiophiles who also
prefer to feel their favorite music.
"The right to play music, including amplified music, in
public fora is protected under the First Amendment," Labarga
A message left with Catalano was not immediately returned
(Editing by Jane Sutton; Editing by Will Dunham)