The trial of a Kansas University student charged with violating Lawrence's noise ordinance was continued today as attorneys prepared for a legal battle on the constitutionality of the city law.
The trial of the student, Derek Bridges, was postponed indefinitely in Lawrence Municipal Court, where he and his attorney are fighting the ordinance on grounds that it is too vague and may violate his First Amendment rights of free speech.
Bridges' attorney, Don Strole of Lawrence, said he plans to file a motion to dismiss the case around Oct. 1 on the grounds that the ordinance is unconstitutional.
The ordinance is targeted at noise from electronic amplification devices and parties and is enforceable 24 hours a day. The law defines a violation as "excessive unreasonable or unusually loud noise which disturbs, injures, endangers the repose, health, peace or safety of other people of ordinary sensitivity within the vicinity of the noise."
The ordinance, which went into effect Feb. 6, carries a maximum penalty of a $500 fine and up to 180 days in jail.
Strole argues that the ordinance gives police officers too much discretion in determining whether a violation has been committed. Officers must make subjective decisions, such as whether a person complaining about noise "is of ordinary sensitivity."
The ordinance, Strole argues, should provide officers objective ways to determine whether someone has broken the law.
He said he also would question whether his client, the president of KU's Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity, should have been charged. The violation stemmed from a complaint about noise coming from the fraternity house.
"I think it's almost axiomatic that my client alone could not have made all the noise," Strole said.
City Prosecutor Tom Porter has argued that the ordinance is legally acceptable because it allows a judge or a jury to decide questions about the level of noise and the sensitivity of the complaintant.