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Noise law defendants seek constitutional ruling

A group of Richmond music lovers charged with violation of the city’s new noise ordinance are willing to risk conviction to get a ruling on their claim that the law is unconstitutional.

“What happened in this case was inexcusable,” said Steven Benjamin, attorney for the defendants, who were charged after six police officers allegedly “raided” a house where a band was playing on Easter Sunday.

Benjamin said he had prepared to argue Monday before General District Judge Phillip Hairston that the recently enacted city noise ordinance runs afoul of the First Amendment. He expressed frustration that a newly assigned assistant city attorney appeared in court admittedly unprepared for battle on the constitutional issues.

Benjamin said the judge offered to toss the case, given the city’s failure to timely oppose Benjamin’s motion. Benjamin said his clients want more than acquittal, however. “They’re in it to vindicate everybody’s rights,” he said.

The challenge to the Richmond noise ordinance now is set for Oct. 18.

Among other things, the ordinance makes it a class 2 misdemeanor to play a musical instrument after 11 p.m. that is plainly audible to any person other than the operator.

By Peter Vieth

2 comments

  1. It’s hard for localities to criminalize sound creation without violating constitutional rights, and it should be. Part of living in a free society is putting up with each other. We’ve had noise battles in Virginia Beach for years, with nearly all of the conflict created by the city, as opposed to annoyed private citizens. After we defeated the VB noise law in Tanner v. City of VB, the city simply enacted another defective law. Beating back unconstitutional laws sometimes feels like sweeping back the ocean….the problems just keep coming.

  2. It’s hard for localities to criminalize sound creation without violating constitutional rights, and it should be. Part of living in a free society is putting up with each other. We’ve had noise battles in Virginia Beach for years, with nearly all of the conflict created by the city, as opposed to annoyed private citizens. After we defeated the VB noise law in Tanner v. City of VB, the city simply enacted another defective law. Beating back unconstitutional laws sometimes feels like sweeping back the ocean….the problems just keep coming.

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