Fredericksburg General District judges usually aren't punishing violators of the city's noise ordinance and in most cases they aren't even handing out community service.
On March 12, three University of Mary Washington students who twice had violated Fredericksburg's noise ordinance for loud parties received a deferred disposition for the second time this year. Not only did their court record fail to identify that they violated the ordinance twice in a six-month period, but the judge didn't even seem to be aware that he twice deferred their separate cases to the same month.
Ryan E. Farrar, Craig Stephen Silverthorne and Thomas A. Dickman violated the city's noise ordinance on Sept. 24, 2011, and the judge deferred the case to May 1. The three violated the ordinance again on Jan. 28 and they appeared in court Monday, where the judge deferred their cases to May 29 without even mentioning the other case. When a judge issues a deferred disposition, it usually means he will dismiss the charges if the person remains on good behavior by the time they return to court usually six month later, but sometimes less.
The three students lived at 1503 Stafford Ave. but the owner notified the city recently that he planned to evict the tenants because the City Attorney Kathleen Dooley twice mailed letters urging the owner to take action.
There have been less than three-dozen noise violations issued since this past summer and most of them were to UMW students, a Fredericksburg Patch investigation identified last month. The court fees for these cases cost $84.
One female student was fined $10 plus the court fees in December 2011. Silverthorne, who has violated the noise ordinance on three separate occassions, received the stiffest penalty for the very first time he was charged on Oct. 10, 2010. He paid a $300 fine and $84 in court fees, but no other person charged with the violation has been punished to even close to this extent. In fact, the judges have become less tough since City Council strengthened the ordinance last summer had increased the overall enforcement of the ordinance.
Editor's note: What do you think about the handling of noise ordinance violations? Should there be a fixed punishment, community service, larger fine or is this type of violation not worth the time and trouble to enforce?