Amicus Brief filed in Virginia Beach Circuit Court on behalf of Lagoon nightclubThe American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia and the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression today filed a friend-of-the-court brief in Virginia Beach Circuit Court on behalf of the managers and owner of a nightclub who have been charged with violating the Virginia Beach noise ordinance. The brief claims that the city’s noise ordinance is unconstitutionally vague and therefore cannot be used as the basis for prosecuting Christopher and Ryan Feeney, who manage the Lagoon, a restaurant and nightspot on Atlantic Avenue, or Jacob Manual, who owns it.
The ACLU also argues that the ordinance is being selectively enforced against the Lagoon since other similar nightspots and even city-sponsored events are allowed to make as much or more noise without fear of prosecution.
The Feeneys have been charged multiple times under Virginia Beach’s noise ordinance, which prohibits any “unreasonably loud, disturbing and unnecessary noise in the city or any noise of such character, intensity and duration as to be detrimental to the life or health of persons of reasonable sensitivity or to disturb or annoy the quiet, comfort or repose of reasonable persons.”
“We are not arguing that Virginia Beach can’t control noise,” said ACLU of Virginia executive director Kent Willis, “only that noise ordinances, like other laws, must be reasonable and precise. The vagueness of the Virginia Beach ordinance means that it is impossible for people to know how to comply with it. It also leaves the law is wide open for abuse by police who may interpret it differently depending on whom that are applying it to.”
“Imagine speed limit signs on I-64 that read, ‘Don’t drive too fast’ rather than ‘65mph,’ added Willis. “That’s the equivalent of what Virginia Beach is doing with its noise ordinance.”
“The Supreme Court has ruled that laws must be written in a way that they can be understood and followed by ordinary people,” added Willis “ Noise ordinances, therefore, should be clearly stated and include a way in which violations can be measured. Most such ordinances state a maximum decibel level at which sound can be heard at a specified distance from its source.”
The case is Feeney v. Virginia Beach. ACLU of Virginia legal director Rebecca K. Glenberg and Josh Wheeler of the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression represent the Feeneys and Manual. A copy of the amicus brief is available by contacting the ACLU at the number below or emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Contacts: Kent Willis, Executive Director, ACLU of Virginia, 804-644-8022 Rebecca K. Glenberg, Legal Director, ACLU of Virginia, 804-644-8022