Mountain View does not have a noise ordinance; therefore the only law controlling sound levels in my community is California’s Penal Code Section 415, which says: “Any person who maliciously and willfully disturbs another person by loud and unreasonable noise.” For the police to stop someone, I was told by one officer, they must determine the volume is purposely intended to interfere with another person’s quiet enjoyment. Additionally, the volume must be at this level when the policeman arrives on the scene.
Now I’m all in favor of everyone having as much fun as possible but only to the point where I can’t hear my TV or music clearly. The officer I spoke with sympathized though he wasn’t able to agree with my characterization of malicious. I wonder why, though, since Mirriam-Webster’s legal definition is simply “wanton disregard for the rights of others.” The willful and loud requirements are clear unless, as was the case this time, the volume is turned down between a call to the dispatcher and the officer’s arrival. Unreasonable has probably been defined through case law though one analysis suggests a loud home stereo system would be unreasonable.
The officer said this is far from the first time he’s had to deliver an unsatisfactory answer to a resident’s noise complaint and I hardly hold him personally responsible, of course. But that doesn’t mollify me, just makes for one more in a long line of unsatisfactory dealings with the Mountain View Police Department.