Disorderly Conduct - Unreasonable Noise and 85 Decibels

Please clarify this statement: "...a noise is presumed to be unreasonable if the noise exceeds a decibel level of 85 after the person making the noise receives notice from a magistrate or peace officer that the noise is a public nuisance." 

What procedure is utilized to confirm that the noise level exceeded 85, specifically as it relates to a vehicle's radio? Is this presumption made pre or post rendering of a citation? 

[Great question left by a commenter to the post on 42.01 Disorderly Conduct…Let me take a stab at answering it with a post of its own.]

From a practical standpoint, i.e., what really happens when a police officer decides to cite, or even arrest someone for a DOC Unreasonable Noise violation, I think the answer is a familiar one: often times, it is left up to the officer to decide whether or not the person is in violation of the statute.

I’m sure there are times when officers have actually measured the noise from a party, for example, using one device or another. In those cases, if the case went to trial, the prosecutor would certainly have better evidence to argue that they had proven their case beyond a reasonable doubt.

Most of the time, however, it’s probably just the officer’s testimony about his “training and experience” that would bolster the state’s case at trial.

This is a good example of the difference needed for a police officer to cite or arrest someone for an offense, and for the prosecutor to convict that person at trial. As a practical matter, most DOC tickets in Austin can probably be disposed of by way of deferred disposition, and eventual dismissal, rather than full-blown jury trial.

As far as the “prior notice from a magistrate or peace officer” part of it, this does not mean that you always get a second chance before receiving a ticket for DOC - Unreasonable Noise. The presumption simply makes it easier, again at the trial level, for the state to prove the defendant was guilty. Again, in Austin, when it comes to loud parties, it has been my experience that the police will usually issue a warning first, and then come back and check on the noise level from the party later.

As far as car radio noise levels are concerned, my guess is that since an officer knows he’s unlikely to see the person in the car again anytime soon, and certainly won’t have a fixed address to come back and check on the radio, that probably increases the chances that he will issue the citation, even though there has been no prior notice. Of course, they always have discretion to “just issue a warning”.

On that note, let me end this discussion for now with a quote from my letter to the UT Daily Texan Firing Line a few months ago on a similar subject:

Police have great discretion as to what to charge someone with, and even whether to charge them with anything at all. Very often the difference between being issued a minor Class C Noise Ordinance violation, instead of being arrested for a Class A Misdemeanor or even a felony, is your attitude when you talk to and interact with the police.

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Comments (6) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
Alex - May 30, 2007 10:54 AM

Most states measure noise by distance...if your car sterio can be heard over say 150 yards (in VA) it is in violation. If the cops don't site you, you can still be taken to court by the people you are annoying, ruining their ears, etc., so cut it down and grow up.

Alma Carr - April 7, 2008 5:46 PM

I am interested in specific "Noise" ordinance for Montgomery County Texas,and/or specifically, Porter Texas. I have seen different towns and cities surrounding with specific guidelines. I have a problem with a neighbor and wish to print the specific guidelines and give it to them and see if it helps. Trying to avid calling the police...

KO - October 29, 2008 9:58 PM

I'm having a noise problem with a neighbor kid roaring up and down the street at all hours of the night. I think the dad is souping up the car to make it really loud. The kid doesn't have a job so he roars in and out of the neighborhood all night long. How can I stop this? I also don't want the neighbors to know I'm the one reporting or my house will end up egged. Thanks!

Jamie - October 29, 2008 10:06 PM

KO:

Sorry, but Alma (above you) has the right answer. Try to settle this peacefully. By which I mean, don't use 911 to solve your problems, be an adult.

I can't tell from your question whether or not you actually are an adult, but go ahead and act like one anyway.

That's my actual advice, but let me throw this out there... why would I answer your question the way you expect me to?

Jamie "Just Curious" Spencer

:)

Marilyn Grogan - October 22, 2010 11:19 PM

My neighbor has somehow gotten the state of Texas to summon me to court for unreasonable noise animals.It is a bold face lie. My dogs do not make as much noise as his in the past or any other dogs in the neighborhood. Why me and what can I do or expect from this?

George Blankenship - November 23, 2011 12:11 PM

I live in a rural area approximately 10 houses. I have a neighbor that shoots his guns all day long is there anything that can be done ?

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