Noise Ordinance Is Bombing In Court; Cases Dropped

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Due to a lack of witnesses and insufficient evidence, the Harris County court system shuttered each and every sound ordinance case that was heard late last week.

Local musicians, DJs and bar owners have been under the microscope since Houston City Council overhauled its decade-old sound ordinance on October 10. The new law dropped the Houston Police Department's requirement to carry a decibel meter to measure sound; instead, a member of HPD's noise ordinance task force can write tickets based upon audible noise that can be heard from the sidewalk.

Marco Torres of the Houston Press says that DJ Sober, who had been nailed at the oft-busted Boondocks, was one of the ticketed whose case was dropped. The subjectivity of Houston's new noise law -- as well as its problems and pitfalls -- were explored in the Press' "Sound Effects" cover story.

Joshua Sanders, a registered lobbyist and official spokesperson for the Greater Houston Entertainment Coalition Political Action Committee, sees the case-dropping trend continuing.

"It's what we've been talking about," says Sanders. "In a subjective nature like this, until you actually have a witness show up, have the police show up and have some sort of tangible evidence, it's essentially going to get dismissed."

Matthew Festa, a professor at South Texas College of Law who knows all about the ins and outs of sound ordinances, says that due to Houston's lack of zoning, the new law was bound to fail from the beginning.

"In Houston, with the lack of zoning, you can't say that noise is okay in one neighborhood but we're going to prevent it in another neighborhood...there's no way you can draft a standard."

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Harris County Civil Courts

201 Caroline St., Houston, TX

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8 comments
kstallings100
kstallings100

Without a DB meter how could anyone be found guilty?? "OH,  I'm a policeman and it sounded kind of loud, take my word for it." Yeah, right.

Hanabi-chan
Hanabi-chan

Sounds like the city was looking for a quick source of revenue. Did not work out as they anticipated huh? The city will continue to lose money on this scheme until someone is smart enough to figure out that there is a better way to get around the problems when they do occur Look, if you move close to a bar or nightclub and that bar or nightclub had been there before you were, then it is your own damn fault for not exercising due diligence and research.  Don't muck it up for the rest of us.

reppin2
reppin2

I am so glad to hear this news! I no longer live in Houston but lived in the Montrose and Heights area for almost 20 years. The fate of the unique music scene will still hang in the balance there, and it disgusts me to see what has been going on there. I live in Chicago now and Houston really needs to take a look at the music scene here, and learn. There is no bickering between the ones that buy homes and townhomes near a music venue. Here the neighbors are more likely to be in the bar and at the concert or venue than bitch about the volume of the music. Houston has a long way to go.

chris
chris

  there are going to be legitimate noise complaints, but without a meter , to record , and an affidavit in evidence, how are you going to prosecute, this is nothing more than armed robbery via government.... and too bad about all you bs red light cameras, yeah how's that working out for ya??

chris
chris

this is what I said from the beginning-- they dropped the requirement for a db meter.. to make it easier to write tickets, based on an officers opinion...fail... there is no tangible evidence... no injury..no complainent, other than the ''a...rmed revenue officer'', the ''policy'' man , or policeman , pirate , or whatever name they are going by....they set the fines to high for people to aquiesse, and give in , so -- confusciuos say '' you just got too damn greedy to enforce your unenforcable bullshit'' via chris shields

Clay Wisner
Clay Wisner

Subjective "rules" are a recipe for disaster - the City should have seen this coming. Now we're wasting more time and money dragging this through the courts... although I'm glad these cases are failing, this fiasco is not helping folks who have legitimate complaints (about which the authorities won't even go visit - strengthening the case that this is just turning into little personal vendettas and not actual law enforcement).

Ray
Ray

What about challenging the law as facially unconstitutional?  I think there's a strong void on vagueness argument and maybe even a first-amendment angle since they can ticket people for "unusual" noises, which is maybe viewpoint discrimination.  

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