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Keep it Down! Understanding Rhode Island's Noise Laws

Posted by Ken Barrett | Jul 27, 2018 | 0 Comments

Rhode Island has a law prohibiting “unreasonable noise levels.” Rhode Island's law prohibits “unreasonable, excessive and annoying noise levels.” What sounds are “annoying” may arguably be in the ears of the beholder. However, the law provides some guidance as to what qualifies as illegal noise.

Illegal Noise Levels Defined

When low-frequency sound, defined as between 100-20 cps, is amplified substantially, this constitutes illegal noise levels.

Dangers of Illegal Noise Levels

According to the state of Rhode Island, this amplified sound can be “extremely penetrating, disturbing and poses a danger to the health and safety” of both the person using the equipment making the sound and others in the immediate area.

What Generates Illegal Noise Levels?

The statute identifies the following sources of illegal noise levels.

  • Radio
  • CD players
  • DVD players
  • Tape players
  • Televisions
  • Other audio-producing equipment.

In other words, with the catch-all phrase of the last source, “other audio-producing equipment,” any mechanism currently invented, along with any mechanism yet to be invented, that produces sound, can be a source of illegal noise.

These days, there may be less people generating illegal noise levels with tapes and CDs, but "audio-producing equipment" may include modern media players or Bluetooth speakers.

How Does One Know When They May Be Violating the Illegal Noise Laws?

In order to determine if the sound is “amplified substantially” such that it meets the level of noise which violates the statute, Rhode Island provides two tests. The first test is whether the sound created can be heard from inside a closed vehicle 20 feet away from where the sound is being generated. The second test is whether the sound can be heard from 100 feet away from where the sound is being generated by someone simply standing outside.

Where Can Illegal Sound Come From?

While people may often think of a loud party as the source of illegal noise, and this certainly can qualify, the statute actually lists the potential sources of illegal sound to include the following.

  • Cars
  • Trucks
  • Motor homes
  • Mobile homes
  • Houses
  • Apartment buildings
  • Condos
  • Commercial buildings
  • From any type of portable sound producing equipment.

Consequences of Violating Rhode Island Noise Laws

When someone is convicted of violating the noise laws, they face a fine. The amount of the fine is based on the number of prior convictions one has. The first offense carries a $100 fine. The second offense carries a $200 fine. The third offense and subsequent offenses carry a $300 fine.

Do You Need a Criminal Defense Lawyer?

When the police initiate contact due to a loud noise complaint, they may end up finding evidence of other types of violations, including drugs or underage alcohol possession, which can escalate into more serious charges. Once the police are legally on the property or in a residence, anything illegal that they observe in plain view may be subject to further investigation. By understanding the loud noise laws, people can avoid any unwanted contact with law enforcement. If you need a lawyer, contact The Law Offices of Kensley R. Barrett, Esq. Our firm has the criminal defense experience you need. Call today to discuss your situation.

About the Author

Ken Barrett

Attorney Kensley Barrett is a skilled criminal defense lawyer with a proven track record in handling a wide range of cases in Rhode Island. Known for his strong background in trial advocacy and negotiation, Barrett is dedicated to providing personalized and effective representation for his clients. Recognized as a "Rising Star" by Super Lawyers and with a 10.0 "Superb" rating on Avvo, he consistently achieves successful outcomes, including acquittals, dismissals, and reduced charges.


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Kensley Barrett

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