A curious ordinance is on the books in the city of Missoula and it could lead to tickets for numerous things including busking on sidewalks, turning your radio on in your car and even just walking down the street while listening to your smartphone on speaker mode.

"This ordinance is actually pretty broad in that it addresses 'the construction, maintenance, operation, moving, carrying or transportation beside, along or upon any street, alley or public highway within the city of any radio, phonograph or other musical instrument, or other sound producing device, while same is producing, or reproducing sound, song, speech or music,'  said Missoula Police Public Information Officer Travis Welsh.

The law has its own section in Missoula code titled “Sound Devices” (Chapter 9.32 if you're curious) and was originally adopted back in 1936, which is why the word “phonograph” still occurs in the law. It was updated in 1979 but the update only allows the chief of police to issue special permits on a per-person basis. Welsh says the law is still something local officers have to know.

"It's still on the books, it's still an ordinance here in the city of Missoula, and it is something our officers are familiar with," Welsh said. "Given the set of circumstances, it can still be applied."

The law doesn’t say anything about decibel levels or offer any more definition of what constitutes a “nuisance” so local police have to use a lot of discretion when it comes to the matter of writing tickets.

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