Band disturbs peace in Ranchos neighborhood
A Gardnerville Ranchos man was found guilty of disturbing the peace in a trial Thursday before Justice of the Peace Jim EnEarl in the East Fork Justice Court.
Terrance Joseph Howell was fined $500 and sentenced to 30 days in jail, both suspended for one year provided he violate no laws, have no loud music emitting from his residence and not hold any more live band practice sessions at his Ranchos residence.
Three neighbors, acting as witnesses for the state, testified that they found music from Howell’s garage loud and offensive.
Howell is currently in a hard rock band called Insanity. They play original music as well as covering other bands’ songs and perform at private parties, Hamdog’s, Auntie M’s and other locations.
Howell said that from September 1996 until the present, Insanity had used his garage as a rehearsal studio.
A resident who lives two houses down from Howell on the same side of the street referred to the problem as “constant loud music.”
She said the music would begin at about 11 a.m. and would end at 3 p.m. This witness testified that the music was played by Howell and his band every day.
“Was it only Saturday and Sunday?” asked defense attorney Bill Cole.
“No, it was every day,” said the witness, who then said the music was played between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.
“You said 3 p.m. before,” said Cole.
“Well, it was over between 2 and 3,” said the witness.
The husband of the first witness testified that he found the music to be loud but tolerable. He said that although on occasion he could hear it from 300-to-500 feet, he never would have called the sheriff’s office or filed a complaint.
The next witness, a neighbor who lives across the street and over one house from Howell, said she couldn’t have the windows open during summer because of the noise. She testified that she heard the music every day.
“It’s not singing, it’s screaming with the same beat,” said the witness. “It’s very loud.”
The final prosecution witness, who lives next door to Howell, said she called the sheriff’s office eight to 10 times because she was tired of hearing Insanity.
“They began at 9 a.m. or 11 a.m. and played all day long,” said the final witness. “It was the same constant beat and screaming.
“I heard a song about the devil and the f-word. It was just a bunch of screaming and moaning.”
Deputy District Attorney Dina Salvucci asked her why she didn’t go over to the suspect’s residence and ask him to turn the music down:
“I don’t dare go over there. I’m not sure what would happen.”
Cole began his case by calling Howell, who testified that he never allowed music to be played after 10 p.m. as a general rule, refuting prosecution witness testimony that the sheriff’s office had been to the residence at 1 a.m. to break up a jam session.
Howell said that while the rule was no playing after 10 p.m., the band actually never practiced past 8 p.m. and only practiced that late on occasional Thursday nights when they had a gig during the upcoming weekend.
Howell said that prior to beginning to practice at his residence, he went around to all the neighbors on his street and informed them there would be a band practicing in his garage. He said he gave each neighbor, all of whom he said told him they had no problem with the practicing, his phone number and asked them to call him if they had problems.
He said he never heard anything from any neighbors prior to Memorial Day of this year when the band played one song with the garage door open.
“I thought maybe some neighbors would enjoy it,” said Howell.
“Maybe some did,” said Cole.
Howell said at that time the only neighbor that complained was the final prosecution witness.
Salvucci attempted to get Howell to admit to being intoxicated and argumentative with deputies on Memorial Day when he was cited, but Howell said he’d only consumed two beers when accosted by deputies.
Cole called Howell’s neighbor from directly across the street, a retired law enforcement officer who said he moved in about one month ago and immediately heard the music.
“It was different,” he said of the band’s music. “It was good music – what I’d refer to as rap.”
The defense witness said he then went over to Howell’s residence.
“I wanted to hear what he had to do. It wasn’t bugging me. I didn’t think it was all that bad. If they played country and western, then I’d have joined right along with ’em.”
Lastly Cole called a band member who is the music director at both China Spring Youth Camp and Wayne’s Family Music in Gardnerville.
“We always practiced two days a week unless we had a gig, then we practiced Thursday,” he said. “Eight p.m. is the latest. We didn’t overstep our boundaries.”
Cole argued that the court must look at this case in terms of what’s reasonable. He said that prosecution witness testimony that Insanity played all day every day is just not true.
He said for the state to prove that Howell disturbed the peace, it must be proved that he made loud noises maliciously and deliberately. Cole said this obviously wasn’t the case, evidenced by Howell’s trip to each neighbor’s residence before beginning practice.
“People make noises at residences,” said Cole. “That’s part of having a house. He (Howell) made a reasonable attempt to straighten out the situation with his neighbors and make it less noisy.
“Four people shouldn’t rule the neighborhood.”
Salvucci said there is no decibel limit when loud noise becomes disturbing the peace, nor is there a cut-off hour when loud noise must cease by law.
She said her office has received complaints about loud noises from cement trucks and vehicles with loudly revving engines. She said the DA’s office, much to the chagrin of the complaining parties, refused to do anything about those problems.
“This is kind of a middle of the road situation here,” said Salvucci. “(Howell’s conduct) is not exactly as legitimate as paving cement or revving a car.
“You can disturb the peace simply by being loud. I’m not saying you should be banning loud music, but it’s not enough to just turn it down or close the (garage) door.
“Maybe it’s a situation where you just can’t do that in this neighborhood without disturbing the peace.”
“I agree that Mr. Howell did the right thing in trying to take care of the problem before it became a problem,” said EnEarl, rendering his decision.
“It’s clear to me here today that there is a problem.”
EnEarl didn’t agree with Cole’s claim that four people shouldn’t decide the fate of the neighborhood.
“Those are the four who live in the closest proximity to the defendant.
“A homeowner has the right to cut wood. He can work on cars but he cannot have junk cars up and down the street and rev the engines all day and night.
“He’s offending just about everybody in earshot.
“Live band practice at the residence is through.”