What Happens When the Police Address Noise Complaints?

Just like every other season, summer brings with it a certain set of ideals, some quintessential elements that everyone looks forward to: backyard barbeques, fireworks, trips to the closest beach, vacations.

And yes, during summer a fair number of us – including the local teens – like to attend the occasional party. The question is, what happens if the blow-out gets a little too rowdy for the neighbors? If they decide to call in a noise complaint or neighborhood disturbance, drawing the police to the festivities, what kind of consequences are you or any other revelers facing?

While no situation is the same, there are some general outcomes you can expect from a visit by the police in response to a call about noise or otherwise disruptive behavior in a residential area. For specific courses of action, it pays to have a trusted attorney at your disposal to help you move forward.

It’s all just noise

Every city has certain codes in place regarding acceptable noise levels and times of day or night when it’s alright to be a little louder. These regulations become more fluid, though, when it comes down to a complaint filed by a neighbor. This means that if it comes to the point that another resident felt that the noise level was intrusive or somehow threatening, then the time or day of week won’t make much difference to the responding officers.

In New Hanover County, any activity that produces noise exceeding 65 decibels during the day, or 50 decibels between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m., warrants a citation from local law enforcement. These activities could include yelling, using a magnifying or loud device (like an air horn or a megaphone), and even whistling if the sound disturbs others. The city of Wilmington has a modified version of these time constraints, allowing up to 65 decibels between 7 a.m. and 11 p.m., or midnight on Friday and Saturday, and 55 decibels from then until 7 a.m. again. Additionally, there are extenuating circumstances and rules in place for places that have been specified as “sensitive to sound” by city ordinances, including churches, hospitals, schools and even courthouses.

The aftermath

Citations are issued at the discretion of the responding officers, and if the violations are repeated often enough, the offender could face a penalty charge as steep as $500, or even as many as 30 days of required jail time. To avoid reaching that point, a good rule of thumb is to monitor your houseguests and keep an eye on the clock. You want everyone to have a good time, but not at the expense of others. And if someone does call the police about your noisiness, the responding officer will generally try to work with you and ascertain the particulars of a situation rather than move straight towards charging you with anything. One-time offenses can often be addressed then and there; just be sure that you don’t start accumulating those complaints!

There’s nothing stopping you from enjoying the final months of summer – your neighbors would just appreciate it if you kept your parties private! For more legal news and tips, keep your eye out for updates to Wentz Law Firm’s blog.

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