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Plymouth Township v. Hancock: Disturbing the Peace with Loud Noises

July 1, 2009 Criminal Law and Procedure

The Michigan Court of Appeals in Plymouth Township v. Hancock refused to strike down an ordinance regulating loud noises that disturb of the peace.

What Happened in the Case

In this case, the Defendant allegedly unleashed a stream of profanities at his neighbor when she was on her lawn, on two separate occasions. The profanities were loud enough so others in the neighborhood could hear.

Law at Issue

The law in question was a Plymouth Township Ordinance, which stated “It shall be unlawful for a person to disturb the public peace and quiet by shouting, whistling, loud, boisterous, or vulgar conduct, the playing of musical instruments, phonographs, radios, televisions, tapeplayers or any other means of amplification at any time or place so as to unreasonably annoy or disturb the quiet, comfort and repose of persons in the vicinity.”

The Court’s Decision

The Defendant argued that the ordinance was overly vague and overly broad. Both concepts are aimed at preventing arbitrary enforcement of laws.

The Court focused on the idea of the “reasonable person,” as the law says a person cannot “unreasonably” annoy. The idea of the reasonable person is ingrained in the structure of the American system of law. Basically, the question becomes what would a reasonable person believe about the situation? Or, what would a reasonable person do?

The court believed the reasonable person standard gave fair notice to persons of what conduct would be prohibited. The idea is what a “reasonable person” would believe would unreasonably disturb or annoy.

The Court refused to strike down the ordinance.

How Would the Reasonable Person Standard?

So if a person were charged with this crime, then a jury would decide whether the defendant at trial had unreasonably disturbed or annoyed another person. The jury would be the reasonable person.

Both the Prosecution and the Defense would make arguments to the jury as to what a reasonable person would or should believe. The arguments could focus on several things. For example, how do other people in the neighborhood behave? Were there other people around the defendant who could hear what he was doing?

Call Us

Call Sam Bernstein at 734-883-9584 or e-mail at bernstein@arborypsilaw.com.

Sam Bernstein is an Ann Arbor Attorney.

ArborYpsi Law is located at 4158 Washtenaw Ave., Ann Arbor, MI 48108.

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ArborYpsi Law has represented many clients in the 35th District Court, the Court in Plymouth where this case began. Read some of our articles geared toward this Court