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State v. Holland

Decided: January 15, 1975.

STATE OF NEW JERSEY (VILLAGE OF SOUTH ORANGE), PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
WILLIAM HOLLAND, DEFENDANT-RESPONDENT



Halpern, Crahay and Ackerman.

Per Curiam

The defendant was found guilty after trial in the Municipal Court of South Orange of the charge that, in violation of Article 4, Section 15-25(b) of the Revised Ordinances of South Orange, between May 1 and June 1973 he permitted noise of such character, intensity and duration at 300 Valley Street, South Orange, as to disturb the comfort and repose of neighboring individuals. He was fined $100 plus $10 costs. He filed an appeal to the County Court, and upon the decision of that court that the ordinance was invalid, this appeal was filed by the Village.

Article 4 of the Revised Ordinance is entitled "NOISE". Section 15-25 provides as follows:

15-25. Creation of loud or unnecessary noise prohibited.

(a) The making, creation or permitting of any unreasonably loud, disturbing or unnecessary noise in the Village is hereby prohibited.

(b) The making, creating or permitting of any noise of such character, intensity or duration as to be detrimental to the life, health or welfare of any individual or which either steadily or intermittently annoys, disturbs, injures or endangers the comfort, repose, peace or safety of any individual is hereby prohibited.

The county court judge held that Section 15-25(b) was unconstitutional, apparently on the theory that it was so broad that it violated the due process clauses of the State and Federal Constitutions. Relying upon the fact that Section 15-25(a) of the ordinance contains the word "unnecessary" in referring to the noises prohibited while Section 15-25(b) does not, he concluded:

I feel that Section [15-25(b)] is not constitutional, in that it bans noises of certain characters without any weighing of the necessity of them.

He further stated:

In the case before me I don't have the word 'unnecessary' used in Section [15-25(b)]. I don't think that I can in propriety borrow a word from Section [15-25(a)] to lend it to Section [15-25(b)] to make an ordinance valid.

We are of the opinion that he erred and reverse.

It has long been established that municipalities in this State have the authority to adopt ordinances regulating or preventing loud, disturbing and unnecessary noises which are detrimental to the public health and welfare. N.J.S.A. 40:48-1, N.J.S.A. 40:48-2; Del Vecchio v. South Hackensack Township, 49 N.J. Super. 44 (App. Div. 1958); Weil v. Ricord, 24 N.J. Eq. 169 (Ch. 1873) and cases cited infra. Of course, such ordinances must comply with certain standards. An ordinance such as this one, providing penalties for violations, is essentially criminal in nature and is invalid if it is so vague that men of common intelligence must necessarily guess at its meaning and differ as to its application. The test is whether the ordinance adequately informs persons of the thing they are forbidden to do. See State v. New York Central R. Co., 37 ...


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