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Supreme Court invalidates Pulaski’s noise ordinance

A Virginia Supreme Court ruling has localities, including Pulaski, scurrying to make changes to their noise ordinances.
David Warburton, attorney for the Town of Pulaski, informed Pulaski Town Council Tuesday evening that the state Supreme Court recently ruled that noise ordinances must contain specific authorized standards for judging the noise in order for the citations to hold up in court.
For example, he noted that a breath analysis machine operated by a trained person has been certified as a reliable method of recording a person’s blood-alcohol content to enforce an intoxicated driving charge.
With the town noise ordinance currently requiring limits on decibels, enforcement in court could be a problem due to the recent ruling. Warburton pointed out that machines that evaluate decibels and the operators, have not been certified by a court as accurate representations of a noise level.
“You’re going to want to come up with some kind of ordinance and recommendation,” Warburton said.
Pulaski Police Chief Gary Roche agreed. “What seems like a simple idea, is going to be difficult to enforce,” he added. He estimated the department receives about 30 noise calls per month.
Warburton said another difficulty with decibels is how to separate the noise in question from any background noise in determining a violation.
“You would have to measure (the offensive noise) separately” and “by a generally accepted standard,” he added. “If you can’t measure it, you can’t enforce it in the court’s eyes.”
Roche said his officers currently are enforcing the noise ordinance informally – giving warnings and only citing violators when warnings go unheeded.
The police chief said he would like to see council adopt an ordinance that would measure the noise in terms of distance. For example, if the sound can be heard from 25 feet away it’s a violation. Then, he added, a tape measure could be used to measure.
Warburton said most all jurisdictions in the state are trying to come up with amendments to their ordinances due to the higher court’s ruling. He said he will have a draft of a proposed new ordinance ready for town council’s Sept. 1 meeting.

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Supreme Court invalidates Pulaski’s noise ordinance

A Virginia Supreme Court ruling has localities, including Pulaski, scurrying to make changes to their noise ordinances.
David Warburton, attorney for the Town of Pulaski, informed Pulaski Town Council Tuesday evening that the state Supreme Court recently ruled that noise ordinances must contain specific authorized standards for judging the noise in order for the citations to hold up in court.
For example, he noted that a breath analysis machine operated by a trained person has been certified as a reliable method of recording a person’s blood-alcohol content to enforce an intoxicated driving charge.
With the town noise ordinance currently requiring limits on decibels, enforcement in court could be a problem due to the recent ruling. Warburton pointed out that machines that evaluate decibels and the operators, have not been certified by a court as accurate representations of a noise level.
“You’re going to want to come up with some kind of ordinance and recommendation,” Warburton said.
Pulaski Police Chief Gary Roche agreed. “What seems like a simple idea, is going to be difficult to enforce,” he added. He estimated the department receives about 30 noise calls per month.
Warburton said another difficulty with decibels is how to separate the noise in question from any background noise in determining a violation.
“You would have to measure (the offensive noise) separately” and “by a generally accepted standard,” he added. “If you can’t measure it, you can’t enforce it in the court’s eyes.”
Roche said his officers currently are enforcing the noise ordinance informally – giving warnings and only citing violators when warnings go unheeded.
The police chief said he would like to see council adopt an ordinance that would measure the noise in terms of distance. For example, if the sound can be heard from 25 feet away it’s a violation. Then, he added, a tape measure could be used to measure.
Warburton said most all jurisdictions in the state are trying to come up with amendments to their ordinances due to the higher court’s ruling. He said he will have a draft of a proposed new ordinance ready for town council’s Sept. 1 meeting.

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