ACLU: Sarasota will quit enforcing 'unconstitutional' noise ordinance

SARASOTA -- The American Civil Liberties Union has reached a $50,000 settlement in a lawsuit challenging the the constitutionality of the city of Sarasota's noise ordinance.

The ACLU in March 2009 challenged a provision in the ordinance that allowed police to seize and impound vehicles when drivers are charged with playing their music too loud. Under the settlement, the city will no longer enforce the ordinance, according to an ACLU news release.

The ACLU sued on behalf of Mark Cannon, of Sarasota, and Latrese Allen of Bradenton.

"Allen was stopped while driving on Martin Luther King Jr. Way, singing along with a song written in memory of a deceased friend," the news release states. "She was ticketed for violating the city's noise ordinance. The city subsequently dropped the charges."

State law makes it illegal to drive a car if the sound system can be heard more than 25 feet away. Sarasota's ordinance went further, allowing police to seize vehicles.

Florida's Second District Court of Appeal has twice struck down ordinances similar to Sarasota's, according to the ACLU.

"Impounding vehicles for playing amplified music was a drastic remedy inconsistent with the First Amendment," said Michael Barfield, a Sarasota legal consultant who worked with the ACLU on the case. "Making exceptions for political and commercial vehicles made no sense at all."