ACLU Secures $50,000 Settlement in Lawsuit Challenging Sarasota's Noise Ordinance
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SARASOTA, Fla. – The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida and its Sarasota/Manatee/DeSoto Chapter today announced a $50,000 settlement in Cannon and Allen v. City of Sarasota, which was filed in March 2009. In the lawsuit, the ACLU asked the court to rule that the city’s policy is unconstitutional. The settlement includes an agreement that the city will no longer enforce the ordinance.
The Sarasota ordinance allows police to seize and impound vehicles when drivers are charged with playing their music too loud. The ACLU sued on behalf of Mark Cannon, a resident of Sarasota, and Latrese Allen, a resident of Bradenton. Cannon was stopped for “loud music” and his vehicle was seized and impounded. Allen was stopped while traveling on Martin Luther King, Jr. Way, singing along with a song written in memory of a deceased friend. She was ticketed for violating the city’s noise ordinance. The city subsequently dropped the charges.
“Sarasota’s noise ordinance, with its draconian penalties, violated fundamental First Amendment principles. The resolution of this case, including the suspended enforcement of the ordinance, ensures that the rights of Sarasota residents and visitors are protected,” said Muslima Lewis, ACLU of Florida Senior Attorney and Racial Justice Project Director.
Although Florida Statute § 316.3045 makes it illegal to drive a car if the sound system can be heard more than 25 feet away, Sarasota’s ordinance went one step further, allowing police to seize the car of a person who is found to be violating the statute.
Florida’s Second District Court of Appeal has twice struck down similar noise ordinances as being unconstitutional. Despite being aware of the potential exposure to lawsuits, the City Council decided to empower police to seize and impound cars.
“Impounding vehicles for playing amplified music was a drastic remedy inconsistent with the First Amendment. Making exceptions for political and commercial vehicles made no sense at all,” said Michael Barfield, Sarasota-based ACLU cooperating attorney.
Attorneys representing Cannon and Allen are ACLU cooperating attorney Andrea Flynn Mogensen; ACLU of Florida Legal Director Randall Marshall; and Muslima Lewis, ACLU of Florida Senior Attorney. Legal Consultant Michael Barfield assisted the attorneys in the litigation.
A PDF copy of the original complaint filed in the Circuit Court of the Twelfth Judicial Circuit in and for Sarasota County can be downloaded here: http://www.aclufl.org/pdfs/Legal%20PDfs/NoiseOrdinanceComplaint.pdf
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