Judges Lax On Fredericksburg's Noise Ordinance

Repeat violators didn't even get community service.

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.

. 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?

Dan Telvock March 20, 2012 at 02:33 PM
WC< judges are appointed, not elected, by the General Assembly. One of few states that do it this way.
TPKeller March 20, 2012 at 05:11 PM
This was said in regard to an unrelated topic, but I heard one of our state legislators say this in a meeting this past General Assembly session: "We don't have a *law* problem, you have a *judge* problem!"
Fredericksburg Neighbor March 26, 2012 at 09:57 PM
Why is this article framed to assume that there should be a harsher punishment? Has anyone considered that $84 court cost is already a high amount considering the charge? After all, we are talking about a noise ordinance, not a theft or violent crime but a case where a neighbor was bothered by too much noise. Does this sound like it warrants community service? Should we consider college students threatening or criminal because they had a party that was too loud? What is the punishment for other similar "crimes"?
Dan Telvock March 26, 2012 at 10:14 PM
The article isn't "framed" in any way. The $84 isn't a punishment and you're framing it to be one. They are court costs. When people go to court and are found guilty, there's usually a punishment, no matter how minor a person might think the charge is. In the case of the noise ordinance, there is no formal punishment issued by the judge.
Citizen March 27, 2012 at 12:07 PM
There needs to be some kind of punishment for these disturbances. I wish they would enforce this all the time. If college students should be in violation, they should go in front of the student discipline board. Of course, UMW does little to enforce policy relating to its student population (such as parking violations, enforcing student rules, etc). Judge Stevens needs to step it up. He is quite lax and does not have consistency. If he had a swifter hand, maybe it would deter violations in the city. I am tired of the college parties coming into the neighborhood at night...being loud, smashing bottles, destroying property. UMW students, you are adults now, act like one!


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