Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Ridiculous Laws of the Week - Pt 6 - "Annoy"

We go to the City of Brighton for this edition of Ridiculous Laws of the Week. While I'm picking on Brighton, these types of provisions aren't limited to Brighton. A lot of cities and some townships have something similar. It's good to take a look at your local municipality and see what laws are on the books in places you live or frequent. One area heavily regulated in almost all areas are animals. If you're a pet owner, look them up. Most city/township ordinances are posted on the internet, just as the state/federal laws are.

There was a bit of a dustup about this back in 2008.

Sec. 54-98. - Insulting, harassing, etc., others.

(a)

It shall be unlawful for any person in the city to insult, accost, molest ,or otherwise annoy, either by word of mouth, sign, or motion any person in any public place.

(b)

It shall be unlawful for any person to harass any person in any public place by striking, shoving, kicking or otherwise touching a person or subjecting them to unwanted physical contact or following a person in or about a public place or places.

(c)

It shall be unlawful for a person to engage in a course of conduct or repeatedly commit acts that alarm or seriously annoy another person and that serve no legitimate purpose.

(d)

It shall be unlawful for any person, with the intent to harass or alarm another person, to communicate with a person, anonymously or otherwise, by telephone, mail, or any other form of written or electronic communications, in a manner likely to harass or cause alarm.

(e)

Any person found to violate this section shall be guilty of a civil infraction and shall be punished by a fine(s) as set forth in section 1-16(b).

I'm going to add this one from the environmental section from 81.

Sec. 42-56. - General prohibition.

Whatever annoys, injures or endangers the safety, health, comfort or repose of the public; offends public decency; interferes with, obstructs or renders dangerous any street, highway, navigable lake or stream; or in any way renders the public insecure in life or property is hereby declared to be a public nuisance. Public nuisances shall include, but not be limited to, whatever is forbidden by any provisions of this article. No person shall commit, create, or maintain any nuisance.

My problem with these are because it's a catch-all. I don't like "catch-all" laws that can be used to ticket someone who's just being a jackass. Laws, especially dealing with the general public, need to be narrow, clearly defined, and understood by all parties. Some laws that otherwise seem vague are usually actually defined fairly well. Disturbing the Peace/Breach of Peace for example or Drunk and Disorderly/Disorderly Conduct. Those I don't generally have a problem with unless they are used as a catch all beyond normal purposes.

That public nuisance ordinance is so vague, it's ridiculous. It's not defined, hence the 'not be limited to' portion. Littering, abandoned fridges, and bill posting (putting advertisements on lampposts, signs, etc) are all listed on there, and those are understandable. Annoy is such a broad term and can cover anything. "Annoy" is such a broad term that isn't well defined. It's subjective. It's not defined in statute. What is considered annoying to a reasonable person? There's been mixed views of that in law to the courts.

"Annoying" laws need to be modified, need to avoid the catchalls, and need to be defined properly.

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