Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Behold: D.C. Loophole Allows Amplified Speech

The District of Columbia Office of Attorney General reviewed our situation related to amplified speech at 8th and H Streets NE. The bad news is that the opinion finds a loophole in the law allowing for amplified speech. As frustrating as it may seem—especially since it has taken more than a year to get to this point, at least we know where we stand. It appears now our community will need to pursue a legislative fix. At any rate, our neighborhood is planning a January meeting to map our next steps.

The following text is from a letter from D.C. Office of Attorney General to ANC6A Commissioner Joe Fengler informing Fengler of their opinion:

Government of the District of Columbia
Office of the Attorney General
One Judiciary Square
441 4th Street, NW
Suite 450 North
Washington, DC 20001

Public Safety Division

December 7, 2005

Commissioner Joseph Fengler
Advisory Neighborhood Commission 6A-02
815 F Street, NE
Washington, DC 20002

Dear Commission Fengler:

Pursuant to your request, my Office, in connection with the General Counsels from the Metropolitan Police Department and the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs have been considering what legal options we may have to remedy the situation discussed in your letter dated October 19, 2005. Unfortunately, after much deliberation, we believe that the current state of law leaves us with no viable legal options.

As you know, the applicable provision of law is the Noise Control Act of 1977. The act was amended in 2004, pursuant to the “Georgetown Project and Noise Control Amendment Act of 2004”. Bill 15-280, D.C. Law 15-214 (Effective Dec 7, 2004). Bill 15-280, as introduced, would have exempted noncommercial speech made in nonresidential areas during the daytime from the definition of a “noise disturbance”, except when such speech exceeded 80 decibels “when measured in any nearby occupied building or outside fifty feet (50 ft.) from the source of sound.” However, the enacted version modified the language so that the definition of a noise disturbance now contains the following sentence: “A sound shall not be considered a noise disturbance if made during noncommercial public speaking during the daytime.” 20 D.C.M.R § 2799. Daytime is defined as 7 AM to 9 PM. As a result, the current law leaves us with no legal mechanism by which to stop this activity as long as it constitutes noncommercial speech and is made during the daytime.

I wish I could give you more encouraging news. I know from your letter and subsequent email traffic that this has been an ongoing problem and that affected residents are quite frustrated as a result of the level of noise involved. Should the Council decide to change the law, my Office will work with MDD and DCRA to re-examine our options.

If you would like to discuss this with me, please do not hesitate to contract me at (202) 727-3500.



By: David M. Rubenstein,
Deputy Attorney General


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3:14 PM  

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