Skip to main content

Loud and Incredibly Close: Noise Ordinances and You

By August 6, 2013September 25th, 2023No Comments

Who decides who is being noisy?  DC recently amended its anti-noise laws to specify that:

“It is unlawful to make an unreasonably loud noise between 10:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m. that is likely to annoy or disturb one or more other persons in their residences.” D.C. Code § 22-1321(d)(2013).

This makes police the “first deciders” of what is too much noise.

The reactions of area college students reflect the correct understanding that these kinds of laws give the police the power to define “unreasonably loud” – a power that obviously will get wielded in a non-uniform manner depending on who is responding to the complaint.  (see GW HatchetGeorgetown Patch and Washington Times)

But the power really lies in the hands of who is complaining: neighbors.

So introduce yourself to your neighbors and befriend them!  It’s human nature that people are much less likely to call the police on people they know and with whom they are friendly with than strangers.

It might seem silly (and you might feel too busy) but:

  • Stop by to say hi.
  • Tell them where you are from/what you are studying
  • Ask them what they do!
  • Bring them a little gift like some cookies (buy the cookies if you can’t bake)
  • Warn them in advance if there is going to be a party and ask them to let you know if it gets too loud.

All this will make neighbors want to be your neighbors instead of your noise police.

And, ideally, it will make you and your friends the first responders and the first deciders on noise, not the police.

These materials have been prepared by Cohen Seglias for informational purposes only and are not intended and should not be construed as legal advice.

Shan Wu

Author Shan Wu

Shan’s professional and personal background gives him a unique understanding of academic institutions and the criminal justice system. A former federal prosecutor in Washington, D.C., he is at home in D.C. Courts and very familiar with all of the Washington, D.C. law enforcement agencies, especially the Metropolitan Police Department. His parents were university professors so he grew up in a university environment. He understands the mindset of academic institutions. As a prosecutor, he supervised in the misdemeanor crime section. This is the section of the Washington, D.C. prosecutor’s office that handles most college student cases. His understanding of charging decisions and how judges view these cases is invaluable to his student clients and their families. Shan served as a federal prosecutor in the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia for over ten years. During his tenure there, now Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr. appointed him to supervisory positions in the Misdemeanor Trial Section and also in a police corruption task force. His outstanding legal work in the government was recognized through numerous Special Achievement Awards from the Justice Department as well as awards conveyed by law enforcement agencies and community groups. From 1999-2000, Shan served as Counsel to Attorney General Janet Reno, advising her on criminal and civil investigations, E-Gov, E-Commerce (electronic signatures, internet gambling, internet telephony, privacy & public access issues in electronic court filings), congressional oversight, and legislative review. His responsibilities included serving as liaison to the FBI, DEA, Criminal Division, Executive Office of United States Attorneys, National Institute of Justice, and White House Counsel’s Office. Shan serves on the D.C. Bar Association’s Hearing Committee of the Board on Professional Responsibility and is a past president of the Asian Pacific American Bar Association for the Greater Washington, D.C. area. He is a 1988 graduate of Georgetown University Law Center, where he graduated Order of the Barristers, edited two law reviews, and was Co-Director of the Moot Court Program. He holds a B.A. in English Literature from Vassar College as well as a Master’s Degree in Creative Writing from Sarah Lawrence College. Following law school, he clerked for the late Hon. Jerry Buchmeyer, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, and the late Eugene Wright, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. He is admitted to practice law in the District of Columbia and Connecticut.

More posts by Shan Wu
Skip to content