Recently I’ve come across a discussion about what we’re doing to address the loud noise due to illegally modified mufflers or exhaust systems.

The noise issue has become a quality of life and health issue. We’ve been working to address the issue in several different ways. We’ll discuss that later, but I also came across some claims that the City can increase the fines for violating these laws, and police can give citations by looking at the size or shape of the modified exhaust system. Based on my communication with our police officers and legal experts, both claims are incorrect.

First, let’s talk about the laws. The laws governing the modified mufflers are State laws.  Article 22-609 of the State Laws prohibits the modification of exhaust systems.

§ 22-609. Modification of exhaust system

(a) Modification that increases sound is prohibited. — A person may not modify the exhaust system or any other noise abatement device of a motor vehicle driven or to be driven on any highway in this State in such a way that the noise emitted by the vehicle exceeds that emitted by the vehicle as originally manufactured.

(b) Operation of improperly modified vehicle prohibited. — A person may not drive on any highway in this State a motor vehicle with an exhaust system or noise abatement device modified in a way prohibited by subsection (a) of this section.

Thus to give a citation, a police officer must hear that the vehicle is making a noise exceeding the noise from the vehicle as originally manufactured. The car can be moving or idling, but its engine must run for the police officer to hear the noise. A police officer cannot cite a vehicle by looking at the size or shape of its exhaust system.

The same goes for the fines. The City cannot increase the penalties for violating these laws. The State law sets the fines. A State bill (HB1333) was introduced in the previous legislative session to increase the penalties. Please read more about that below.

A sign stating the prohibition of loud modified systems on Rhode Island Avenue, north of MD 193.

A sign stating the State law $22-609 prohibition of loud modified systems on Rhode Island Avenue, north of MD 193.

The State Delegates have been working to change the state laws with new bills for more effective and stricter enforcement. The City Council has also supported these bills. I, personally, have testified in support of some of these bills’ hearings.

  • HB 208: Street Racing and Exhibition Driving
  • SB 229 Noise Abatement Moni- Systems – Authorization, Use, and Penalties
  • HB 304 Noise Limits and Modification of Exhaust Systems and Noise Abatement Devices
  • HB 1333: The bill will essentially increase the fines for non-compliance on the repair order from $70.00 to $200.00. The subsequent fines for the same non-compliance would go up to $300 and then $400.

Unfortunately, these bills did not go out of the House committee. We hope to see it coming back in the future legislative session.

In addition to working with the State legislature on these bills, The City has also added several signs reminding drivers against the exhaust system modification.

Our police officers have been giving many citations to these vehicles daily. They are reported in the City’s weekly emails.