Noise Violations: No Notice Necessary

Ryan Anderson, a broadcast journalism major from Alpharetta, received to a noise violation one night in early January. Anderson and his roommates played music into the morning, and got a call from a neighbor letting them know the police pulled up at their house.
“We were jamming, doing the whole full band thing upstairs,” Anderson said. “It was really good they called because we never would have heard anyone at the door.”
Anderson and his roommates cut everything off and opened the door to talk to the officers.
“When I opened the door it looked like one of the officers was already writing the ticket,” Anderson said. “It seemed like we didn’t have any opportunity to discuss it or contest the ticket or ask for a warning.”
Night owls beware. Late night revelry could result in a noise violation without warning.
Some students, like Anderson, believe that it is police policy to issue a warning before writing a noise violation.
Assistant Police Chief Alan Brown said that is not the case.
Currently, there is no stipulation within the noise ordinance that requires warnings by officers.
The current law merely prohibits, among other things, noise from “mechanical sound-making devices” or from a “party” that is “plainly audible” 100 feet away from a person’s property limits. This portion is in effect between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m Monday through Friday and 12 a.m. to 7a.m. Saturday and Sunday.
While it is not general policy to give warnings officers do have some leeway when deciding on the best action.
“If it’s an inadvertent noise situation, like a wedding or a party breaking up, they have the discretion to see that everyone is clearing out,” Brown said.
Maizy Stell, a comparative literature major from Acworth, only received a warning when the officer found that any loud noise had ceased.
“We were really drunk on Everclear and making doughnuts in a truck, while people were wrestling, or whatever, and yelling on the back porch and someone complained,” Stell said. “When the cop came to the door we had already stopped and were watching Disney movies in my living room.”
Brown said that the noise violations are complaint driven, and the officers follow some basic steps when they arrive at the scene. After finding the sound source, the officers walk away “much further than the ordinance distance” to be sure a citation needs to be written.
The current ordinance held up in court, too. Georgia Supreme Court Justice David E. Nahmias wrote the concurrent opinion in a noise violation case decided in September, 2011.
According to documents the court decided that the law passes the free speech test because it is not restricting specific types of speech and it changes from situation to situation.
“The ordinance does not apply the same volume limitation everywhere, because the “plainly
audible” requirement measures the permitted volume according to the ambient noise in each location.”
Ian Grady, the defendant in the 2011 case, also challenged the ordinance on the grounds that he did not receive a complaint from a neighbor. According to documents, Grady argued for a new provision that would base violations, in part, on complaints from other residents.
However, Brown said this is usually the case already.
“Most of the complaints come from citizens,” he said. “A lot of complaints come because of a conflict between lifestyles. A lot of our problems do arise because young people move into residential neighborhoods where older people live.”
Anderson said he believes this was the situation in his case.
“We live across the street from government housing, and most of the people are old retirees and stuff,” he said. “It was 1:30 in the morning so we weren’t that surprised.”
Brown said that people should be especially careful not to receive more than one complaint. If multiple violations are issued, the responsible party will have to appear before a judge in court.
“A repeat offense might be more egregious if it happens within a shorter period of time,” Brown said.
Students might find that the best way to avoid police intervention when the volume gets turned up is to keep in touch with any neighbors.
“We know most of our neighbors really well,” Stell said. “They call us whenever things start getting out of hand.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s