Georgia Supreme Court upholds noise ordinance

Sometimes discretion is the better part of valor.

One early Saturday morning, Ian Grady was cited by a county police officer for violating Athens-Clarke County Ordinance § 3-5-24(c)(2)(a), which prohibits noise from “mechanical sound-making devices” or from a party that is “plainly audible” 100 feet away from a person’s property limits between midnight and 7:00 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday. (Ian was hosting party.) Although there were no noise complaints about Ian’s party, the officer was patrolling the area and heard loud music from over 170 feet away. Case closed, kinda. 

Appealing from his conviction, Ian launched an assault on the noise ordinance under the Georgia Constitution’s guarantee of free speech (Ga. Const. art. I, § I, para. V). He lost. One thing that strikes me about this opinion is the Georgia Supreme Court’s discussion about how or why (or even if) Georgia’s Constitution really does provide a greater degree of protection of speech than does the First Amendment. Yikes. That’s been the general understanding for about 20 years. Justice Nahmias, who’s a brilliant mind by all accounts, has a penchant for peeling the onion and shaking up some set notions.

I sure hope that Georgia’s free-speech jurisprudence has some earthquake-proof reasoning – I’m crying already.

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