Judge declares Richmond noise ordinance unconstitutional

By Rachel DePompa - bio | email
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – This afternoon a judge declared the city's controversial new noise ordinance unconstitutional.

A victory tonight for a little band that stood up to City Hall. The members of "Little Master," cited under Richmond's new noise ordinance for playing too loudly at a house party, made the challenge.

Attorney Steven Benjamin and his partner took the case for free.

"Many of us advised council that this was blatantly unconstitutional," said Benjamin.

The ordinance was passed by council on February 22. It makes it a class two misdemeanor, punishable with jail time, for noise that can be heard 50 feet away after 11 at night.

"Makes it impossible for people to know whether the sounds they make in their daily living are lawful sounds or not," Benjamin said.

The judge agreed, saying the ordinance was too detailed and criminalized noise coming from almost any appliance in a person's house. He also said the city council went too far when it made an exemption for religious noise -- meaning churches can ring their bells past at midnight, but a person has to watch the volume on his TV past 11.

"I hope that the city will make the responsible decision and not to waste anymore time defending this ridiculous thing and will instead go to work and give us the noise ordinance that we deserve," Benjamin stated.

The city has 10 days to appeal the decision to the Circuit Court of Richmond. As of now the ordinance is unenforceable, meaning police can't ticket people for it. If the city does not appeal the judge's decision, then the city council will need to take immediate action to fix the statute.

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