Posts Tagged ‘freedom of expression’


Criminal Blog Week Day 2–Preaching Too Loud?

Tuesday, April 12th, 2011

Preaching Too Loud?

Currently, there is a case working its way through the Lakeland criminal docket involving a preacher accused of preaching too loud, thereby violating the noise ordinance.   According to newspaper reports, here’s what happened:

Anthony Lowery was arrested on May 4, 2010 for violating Lakeland’s noise ordinance, a second-degree misdemeanor which carries a maximum of 60 days in jail and/or a $500 fine.  While standing at the corner of Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. and Memorial Boulevard in the morning hours, he was preaching using a speaker system to amplify his voice.

Lowery is charged with violating Lakeland’s Noise Control Ordinance 70-46, which states:  No person or legal entity, through its officers, agents or employees, shall make, maintain, or cause to be made or maintained a noise disturbance as defined in this article. The continuation of a noise disturbance upon one’s property following notice of its existence to that person making, maintaining, or causing to be made or maintained a noise disturbance shall be deemed to continue with the permission of the property owner.

In Lakeland, a noise disturbance is defined as the following:

Section 70-45

A “noise disturbance” is any sound which is:

(1) Unreasonably loud and disturbing;

(2) Of such character, quantity, or duration as to be injurious to human or animal life, or property;

(3) Of such character, quantity, or duration as to unreasonably interfere with the comfortable enjoyment of life or property; or

(4) Of such character, quantity, or duration as to unreasonably interfere with the normal conduct of business.

Interestingly, in the next section of the Code, section 70-47, there are specific prohibitions which constitute prohibited noise disturbances, one of which is an “Amplified human voice”, defined as amplifying the human voice in such a manner or with such volume as to annoy or disturb the quiet, comfort, and repose of a reasonable person in any dwelling, place of business, hotel or other place of residence.

There are exceptions to noise violations (see section 70-48), one of which is the “unamplified human voice”.

The state is arguing that Lowery broke the law because his voice was so loud as to annoy or disrupt local residents and businesses.  Lowery, through his attorney, has argued the ordinance infringes on his right to freedom of expression.  Apparently, Lowery had been preaching at that location for nine years without being arrested.

Lowery’s noise ordinance arrest is unusual.  In 2009, more than 2,300 noise complaints in Lakeland resulted in police giving out eight notices to appear in court but they made no arrests.  Police claim Lowery was arrested because of his refusal to quiet down after being asked to do so by officers.

Procedurally, the defense recently filed a Motion to Dismiss which was denied. The case is currently set for a Pre-Trial Conference on April 26, 2011.

For local newspaper coverage of this case, please see:

Street Preacher’s Noise Case to Continue (The Ledger, April 6, 2011)

Judge Pondering Case Against Street Preacher (The Ledger, March 15, 2011)