Noise Ordinance Is Bombing In Court; Cases Dropped

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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Steve Jansen is a contributing writer for the Houston Press.
Contact: Steve Jansen