The city’s new noise ordinance went into effect February 22nd. Since that time, Richmond Police have handed out 105 citations to homeowners and motorists. Today, the law was supposed to face its first major challenge in court. The members of the band, “Little Master” were ticketed April 4th. Tim Morris, 29, bass player Leah Clancy, 28, and drummer Michael Bourlotos, 24, were playing at a house party on West Clay Street. The home was rented by Rozalia Janicki, who was also cited. Their attorney, Steven Benjamin, says, “Police essentially forced their way into this home, where they had no permission to enter and without a search warrant.” He goes on to say that the police, “demanded identification, questioned everyone and over the protest of the owner, they searched every room of the that house.”
Benjamin is arguing that the city’s noise ordinance is too vague and violates first amendment rights. In court today, Nicholas Simopoulus with the city attorney’s office, said the ordinance is not unconstitutional and indicated the city plans to fight the challenge.
The ordinance was passed by the City Council under the guidance of the City Attorney. Under the ordinance, any noise after 11pm and before 7 am should only be heard by the person making the noise. Violators face up to a thousand dollar fine and 6 months in jail.
The band was charged five months ago and the case has been delayed three times. Today, an assistant city attorney showed up and asked for a continuance. Judge Phillip Hairston was upset and said, “the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office could have been more prepared,” but he faulted the City attorney’s office for not being ready. Legal arguments were supposed to have been filed months ago, but the city did not file anything. The judge said he would consider dismissing the charges against the band, but the members asked him not to. Tim Morris told me outside the courtroom, “It’s important that we get a ruling from the judge, so that we all know in the future as, citizens, musicians and artists, what this ruling means to us as individuals and what it means to our city.”
Judge Hairston rescheduled the case for October 18th. He says he wants arguments from both sides and plans to make a ruling.