Merit Decision: The Court Upholds the Constitutionality of the Making Unreasonable Noise Section of the Disorderly Conduct Statute. State v. Carrick.

On February 22, 2012, in State v. Carrick,  2012-Ohio-608, in a unanimous decision by Justice Cupp, the Supreme Court of Ohio upheld the constitutionality of R.C. 2917.11(A)(2), which states that “No person shall recklessly cause inconvenience, annoyance, or alarm to another by…[m]aking unreasonable noise…”  

Neighbors called police several times over loud music coming from a Halloween party Carrick was hosting.  The police came over and warned him that if they had to return, he would be issued a citation.  While Carrick complied at first, the music became louder after the police left.  The police returned shortly after midnight, and issued him a minor misdemeanor citation for disorderly conduct. Carrick was warned that if police had to return, he would be arrested. After receiving another complaint at around 1:30 a.m., the police returned and arrested Carrick for disorderly conduct.  He was later convicted of that offense, and challenged the constitutionality of the statute.  The Ninth District Court of Appeals upheld the conviction and the constitutionality of the statute. The Court accepted the case on conflict certification, since the Fourth District had found the same statute to be unconstitutional.

Carrick argued that his due process rights were violated because the statute in question was void for vagueness. The Court  noted that it was unclear from Carrick’s brief whether he was making a facial or an as-applied challenge to the statute, but ultimately concluded it made no difference since the statute passed muster either way. 

The issue in a vagueness challenge is whether the statute in question provides enough notice for a person of ordinary intelligence to understand what the law requires of him or her. The Court found this one clearly did, because the statute incorporates an objective standard to impose liability.  In addition, the statute requires a mental state of recklessness, and contains the factors of “inconvenience, annoyance, or alarm to another” to add specificity to assess the disturbance level.    “A person of ordinary intelligence would understand that R.C. 2917.11(A)(2) proscribes playing music at a late hour at such a volume that it keeps the neighbors from sleeping, causes windows to vibrate on a house a quarter mile away, and prompts numerous calls of complaint to authorities,” Justice Cupp wrote, noting also that Carrick had been warned by law enforcement before ultimately being arrested.

 Justice Pfeifer concurred in judgment only in the case, but did not write a separate opinion.



 Concluding Observations

Turns out, as I predicted, there really wasn’t much to this one. I thought a majority or even a unanimous court would uphold the statute, largely because it incorporated an objective standard of reasonableness.

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