Is It Legal To 'Boombox Serenade' Someone?

Even if you've never heard of Say Anything, you're almost certainly familiar with the scene above. The image of John Cusack holding a boombox aloft in an attempt to win back his sweetheart has been parodied countless times since the film came out in 1989.

If you're a soppy romantic at heart, you may have contemplated pulling off a similar stunt for the Ione Skye in your life. But is doing so actually legal? Let's take a look.

The legalities of 'boombox serenading' fall under two areas: noise pollution and trespassing/loitering. Let's take a look at each in turn.

In Australia, domestic noise limitations help to regulate how much residential sound is acceptable at certain times of the day. The volume level doesn't need to be damaging to human eardrums: if it interferes unreasonably with the "comfort or repose" of nearby persons, it may be considered a noise violation.

The exact rules on what constitutes "too loud" vary from state to state. However, local councils and/or police will generally investigate any sound that interferes unreasonably with the comfort of a person inside their premises. Presumably, blasting Peter Gabriel's In Your Eyes directly at someone's bedroom window qualifies as unreasonable.

With that said, first-time offenders tend to be a let off with a verbal warning or noise abatement notice. Fines of up to $400 do exist, but these are usually only issued after repeat violations.

There are also different time restrictions depending on what day it is. For example, in Victoria the use of noisy electrical amplified sound equipment is restricted to 7am-10pm on Monday to Thursday, 7am-11pm on Friday, 9am-11pm on Saturday and 9am-10pm on Sunday.

As long as you restrict your Lloyd Dobler impression to the aforementioned time slots, you should be okay.

Trespassing laws are another matter, however. In Australia, it is illegal to enter a private property without permission. This includes playing music on their front lawn. If you refuse to go when asked, the occupier (AKA the disgruntled parents of the teenager you're trying to woo) are legally entitled to remove you by force.

While less common, there are also laws that prohibit loitering in public places - in this case the footpath or sidewalk. This is usually only enforced when a crime is suspected of being committed, such as drug dealing or impending burglary.

Your taste in music not withstanding, it is unlikely that playing a boombox in public would be classed as an indictable offence. Nevertheless, police may still force you to move on if your behaviour is deemed to be disruptive. Our advice: cue it to the final chorus and get out of there quick.


Did you just catch yourself wondering if something was legal or not? Let us know and we may be able to answer it in our next Is It Legal? feature.


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