Shhh, it’s 10:15 p.m.
While some are criticizing a new law targeting night-time noise in neighborhoods, Councilmember Phil Mendelson says the measure simply updates ordinances written in 1892 and 1953 that were too confusing to understand, much less enforce. In an email to a business group, Mendelson, chair of the Council's Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary, cited the old law:
“Whoever, with intent to provoke a breach of the peace, or under circumstances such that a breach of the peace may be occasioned thereby: . . . (3) shouts or makes a noise either outside or inside a building during the nighttime to the annoyance or disturbance of any considerable number of persons . . . shall be fined not more than $250 or imprisoned not more than 90 days, or both.”
The "clarification" as Mendelson describes it, says, "It is unlawful for a person to make an unreasonably loud noise between 10:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m. that is likely to annoy or disturb one or more other persons in their residences. A person who violates any provision of this section shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction, shall be fined not more than $500, imprisoned not more than 90 days, or both.”
MPD's Lt. John Hedgecock announced the new law at Georgetown's ANC Meeting. "So this is how liberty dies, with smug looks from several ANC Commissioners," said a post on Vox Populi, the Georgetown Univ. student blog.
Georgetown residents have long complained about the racket from off-campus student housing and late-night crowds leaving bars. Councilmember Jack Evans was offered an additional dose of decibels by residents of Capitol Hill who protested in front of his house when Evans blocked legislation that would have imposed new controls in 2008.
Mendelson points out that the new law was written in collaboration with civil liberties advocates. “Over a year’s work by a stakeholders group that met under the auspices of the Council for Court Excellence molded the law. Members of the group included the ACLU, the Public Defender Service, the United States Attorney, and the Office of the Attorney General,” Mendelson said.