Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Amendment to Elkhart County noise ordinance raises fines for repeat offenders

Starting Sept. 1, repeat violators can expect to shell out more in fines.

(Elkhart Truth file)
Posted on July 22, 2014 at 1:46 p.m.

Habitually loud county residents could soon face higher fines for repeat violations of the Elkhart County noise ordinance.

The Elkhart County Board of Commissioners approved an amendment Monday, July 21, to the current ordinance that increases penalties for serial offenders and sets up a new fund for collected fines.

Currently, the ordinance fines county residents a minimum of $250 and a maximum of $2,500 for noise ordinance violations, including repeat offenses.

Set to go into effect Sept. 1, 2014, the amended ordinance sets the minimum penalty at $250 for the first violation, $500 for the second violation, $1,000 for the third violation and $1,500 for each additional violation.

Those increased fines only apply to violations made within two years of the prior offense. The maximum fine for any noise violation will remain at $2,500.

Fines are currently decided by judges, who have some discretion in how much to fine somebody within the $250 to $2,500 range, according to Elkhart County Sheriff Brad Rogers

“With the amended ordinance it takes some of that discretion away,” he said.

It will also let the sheriff’s department advertise the increasing fines, “hopefully preventing more issues rather than them ending up in court,” Rogers said.

Collected fines will go into a new county noise ordinance fund to pay for equipment and training at the Elkhart County Sheriff’s Department. Right now, fines are collected in the county general fund.

Regulated noises in the ordinance include idling tractors, loud animals, amplified sounds, broken mufflers or exhaust systems on vehicles, squealing tires, revving engines and the loading and unloading of boxes, bales, crates or other containers.

In 2013, the county sheriff’s department issued 17 citations and 53 warnings for noise ordinance violations, according to Rogers.

It’s not clear how many of those citations were repeat violations.

For specifics on noise violations and exemptions, check the document below.

General rule of the Elkhart County noise ordinance:

“No person shall make, continue or cause to be made or continued any loud, raucous, improper, unreasonable, offensive or unusual noise which disturbs, injures or endangers the comfort, repose, health, peace or safety of others persons within the unincorporated areas of the county.”

Elkhart County noise ordinance

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