I live off Columbus Avenue near Stewart Avenue. Especially during the summer there are constantly cars going by with the boom-boom-boom stereos, where all you hear is the bass. Some of them can be heard for several blocks in either direction. Isn't there an ordinance or law about sound levels a certain space from a vehicle? It's bad enough when I have the windows open, but when I can hear them over my TV with all the doors and windows closed, that's too much. Anything I can do about it?
— Patricia G.
Boy, did the last column on motorcycle noise generate a lot of feedback! While your question is related Patricia, it's dealt with in a totally different and specific state law.
Oregon Revised Statute 815.232 covers unreasonable sound amplification from a vehicle. It says a person commits the offense if they operate any sound amplification system that is plainly audible outside of a vehicle from 50 or more feet when the vehicle is on a public highway (most roads) or on premises open to the public (generally parking lots). There are, as always, exceptions to this law:
- When the system is being used to request assistance or warn of a hazardous situation.
- When the vehicle is being operated outside of an urban growth boundary.
- When used by emergency vehicles, utilities vehicles or telecommunications carriers.
- Sound systems of vehicles used for advertising, or in parades, political or other special events, except that the use of sound systems on those vehicles may be prohibited by a local authority by ordinance or resolution.
- Audio alarm systems installed in vehicles.
The offense of causing unreasonable sound amplification from a vehicle is a Class D traffic violation with a bail of $97. However, there is a provision in the law that allows for a stiffer penalty. It becomes a misdemeanor if the person has been convicted of three or more violations of ORS 815.232 within 12 months immediately preceding the commission of the offense.
So to answer your question, there is probably little that you personally can do about it, but police officers can. Unlike the issue with loud motorcycles, this law doesn't require us to use a decibel meter to effectively prosecute it — we can cite if the sound is audible at a distance greater than 50 feet. This works well for where you say you live Patricia, but it doesn't always work for some areas in the Sheriff's Department's jurisdiction because it's unenforceable outside an urban growth boundary. In other words, there is essentially no noise ordinance in the county, so you're free to blast your stereo, shoot firearms, etc. However, if you do any of those in an unsafe manner or at "late and unusual hours" then you may run afoul of other laws, such as reckless endangerment or disorderly conduct.
Dace Cochran, a patrol sergeant with the Jackson County Sheriff's Department, writes a weekly Q&A column on police issues for the Mail Tribune. Have a question for him? Write to Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501, or e-mail email@example.com.