Montreal man's musical mistake: The law behind singing too loudly in a car

Taoufik Moalla poses for a photograph in his car in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes

Most of us have belted out our favorite tunes while driving, but we’ve likely never thought about the possible consequences.

Taoufik Moalla has made headlines for landing a $149 fine after singing in his car and being deemed too loud for a public space.

Moalla, 38, said to CTV News that he was driving on Sainte-Croix Avenue in Montreal on September 27, singing along to the ‘90s hit Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now), when four police officers came up and asked if he had been screaming. He replied that he had just been singing but they ended up leaving him with a ticket for screaming in a public space.

Taoufik Moalla poses for a photograph in his car in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes

“I don’t think it was too loud, I was happy, I was in a good mood and I was just repeating the refrain,” Moalla told the Canadian Press.

Moalla initially questioned whether his car is considered a “public place,” but legal experts have indicated that noises made in a private space, but heard in an public area, can still be considered a public disturbance.

“If he’s not heard outside the car, the confines of the car would be a private place,” Andrew Barbacki, criminal lawyer in Montreal said. “You can be in the privacy of your own home but if you blast music out your window, which disturbs the neighbors, the bylaws apply.”

“There has to be a distinction made,” Jordan Charness, senior partner of Charness, Charness & Charness in Montreal said. “If you have loud music playing in your house and the windows are open, and it’s blaring outside…you can get ticketed for that even though you’re doing it inside your house because you’re causing a disturbance.”

The Montreal bylaw refers to the act “to cause disorder by screaming” as a violation of “peace and tranquility” and can result in a fine of up to $1,000 for the first infraction.

Legal experts have identified that this bylaw is “rarely applied.”

“When the bylaw was written, the point of that type of bylaw was to avoid arguments in public,” Charness said. “It’s really rare.”

The city of Montreal also has a separate bylaw relating to “automobile radio” which cannot “trouble the peace and tranquility of the occupants of adjacent buildings between 11:00p.m. and 7:00a.m.”

There is an additional bylaw related to “loudspeakers on vehicles” that refers to an incident where “the sounds produced or reproduced are projected towards the properties or public places.”

According to CBC News, Moalla has contested the ticket and is waiting for a court date. Legal experts believe the outcome will be based on the amount of provable facts.

“It’s really a question of fact,” Barbacki said. “It’s a factual question of really how loud it was, how many people were around, whether it could cause a disturbance.”

“It’s very likely that he will succeed in his defense,” Charness said, assuming the statements that Moalla has made are indeed the facts.