Last April, 23-year-old Ryan Meyer was driving with a friend past the Alderwood Mall in his red Volkswagen Jetta when a motorcycle cop emerged from a hidden driveway. Sirens rose above the discordant notes of Sublime's tribute to the L.A. riots, "April 22, 1992."

Meyer's crime? The car stereo was audible from 50 feet away, the officer said, writing him a ticket for nearly $500.

Meyer did a double take. "My jaw just dropped," says Meyer, a construction worker who lives in Lynnwood.

At first glance, this makes Lynnwood--a middle-class bedroom community just a few miles north of Seattle--look rather reactionary. But the town's attitude toward bass boosters and oversized subwoofers isn't all that rare, says Lynnwood City Attorney Greg Rubstello.

Most cities in Washington have ordinances against loud noise and music, Rubstello says. The Lynnwood law provides for a maximum penalty of $250--well above Seattle's $50 fine, but similar to penalties in cities like Bothell and Bellevue.

But Meyer's ticket wasn't $250. It was $490. Blame Olympia lawmakers for that, Rubstello says, explaining that state lawmakers facing an increasingly expensive court system have been tacking additional fees onto tickets over the past decade. These fees now add up to 90 percent of the original ticket--a $240 administrative fee, if you will.

Lynnwood City Council Member Don Gough is quick to point out that this is a state-mandated fee, not something that Lynnwood has implemented.

But Meyer thinks $490 is unreasonable, even if it goes to the courts. "That's a high price for dealing with me for 10 minutes," he says.

Noise laws like the one in Lynnwood sprouted across Washington State in the 1980s, as a way to control the sudden proliferation of portable boom boxes and amped-up car stereo systems, says Rubstello. They're enforced at discretion of individual police officers--the laws rarely require an officer to take a decibel reading--and it seems officers' ears are more sensitive in Lynnwood. Meyer is the 35th person to be ticketed in Lynnwood this year; meanwhile, Seattle, with 16 times the population, has only busted 26.

Meyer went to court and had his ticket reduced to a mere $125. He's happy, but still thinks it's ridiculous to ticket kids for playing their stereos. Don't expect these laws to go away anytime soon, though, especially in Lynnwood.

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