Disturbing the Peace in Southeast Texas?


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Magnuumpwr
March 27, 2011, 02:29 AM
Today I invited several people over to my property to play around shooting my new toy. The gun is a belt-fed M3HB 50 cal, semi-auto. Place in a rural area on 20 acres with a dirt berm backstop. Time was about 11:00 AM when we started, shot off and on till about 15:00, rounds fired 90. At approximately 16:30 two sheriff's deputies arrived to inform me that someone called in that I was shooting. They also informed me that I could be cited for disturbing the peace. Going to google Texas state laws and also Jasper county laws in reference to defined areas to disturb the peace and penalties. This seemed a little odd to me that I could be disturbing the peace, who's peace is still uncertain, the deputies would not divulge that information. Anyone with any experience with similar situations? How did you remedy the problem? Hate to think that I will have to go to a gun range when I feel like shooting my belt-fed, shooting my guns when I want is the reason that I purchased the land I live on.

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Owen Sparks
March 27, 2011, 03:09 AM
If your noise comes inside someones home and bothers them it is disturbing the peace. There have been plenty of cases where loud music caused problems like this and your .50is louder than an outdoor rock concert.

WeedWacker
March 27, 2011, 11:47 AM
Maybe it was someone jealous that you didn't invite them, too.

Art Eatman
March 27, 2011, 12:08 PM
Most "disturbing the peace" laws are city ordinances. Outside city limits, only state law in Texas holds. Generally, any legal activity when done during dayligtht hours is not an offense. (A local complained to our J.P. about my shooting, and was informed that my daylight shooting was perfectly legal and therefore no offense.)

Just off the cuff, it sounds like the deputies didn't really know how to handle somebody's complaint, but felt they had to "do something". A local friend of mine with a Barrett made a point of phoning neighbors ahead of time, whenever he planned to do some shooting of his "Big Fifty". Saved hassles. Neighbors are easier to get along with when they know what's going on, and that it's not an every day thing. After all, Ma Deuce isn't the quietest critter there is. :)

It's situational as to varmint hunting at night, when shots might be ruled an offense. It's not unwise to phone an SO or a game warden before setting out; saves night-time hassles.

Best would be to go to Vernon's Annotated Civil Statutes (V.A.C.S.) for Texas (available online) and seek your answer. The Texas Criminal Code IIRC is also available online.

jcreid06
March 27, 2011, 12:16 PM
TX Penal Coade 42.01

5) makes unreasonable noise in a public place other than a sport shooting range or in or near a private residence that he has no right to occupy.

Subsection c) for purposes of this section:

1) an act is deemed to occur in a public place or near a private residence if it produces its offensive or proscribed consequences in the public place or near a private residence and

2) a noise is presumed to be unreasonable if the noise exceeds a decibel level of 85 after the person making the noise receives notice from a magistrate or peace officer that the noise is a public nuisance

Normal talking levels are around 60 db. Shooting a firearm is well over 100 db. Basically the officers aren't going to have measured the DB but if they have received a call from someone complaining about the noise than it is obviously disturbing the peace. I receive this call multiple times at night but most of the time its loud/drunk college kids.

I know its frustrating and I would be frustrated too because I would like to shoot my guns on my property if I had the land to do it. My suggestion is go to your neighbors and talk to them about you shooting your firearms.

More than likely the call came in as a lot of shots being fired and when the deputies got out there they used the noise violation to talk to you since you are able to shoot on your property.

JTH
March 27, 2011, 12:18 PM
It may help in the future, to speak with your neighbors as a courtesy before you shoot. Let them now that you're shooting into a burm for safety reasons, maybe ask them to come by to join in or just to look the area over you're shooting into.

If you're out of city limits, I'd of also asked the officers to look at the area you are shooting into. Better make sure all weapons are 922 compliant. Being polite general gets me much further, being negative. Not saying that you were, hope you see my point.
JT

Owen Sparks
March 27, 2011, 03:54 PM
In my county you can make all the noise you want up until ten o'clock P.M. After that it is "quiet time". This was established over a noise complaint made about local dirt track racing.

4thPointOfContact
March 27, 2011, 04:07 PM
An officer is under no legal obligation to tell you the truth; in any way, or at any time. Some officers take that quite literally, and use it as a method of enforcing what they think, or want to be the law.

Magnuumpwr
March 27, 2011, 09:49 PM
I did indeed ask the officers to come and look at the gun, distance, and back stop. And explained that the gun is new and that the firing was being done at less than 50 yds to minimize unknown issues with the gun. (point of aim vs. point of impact) They did not seem to have a problem with the actual shooting, but being called out. I informed them that the next items I intend to purchase are silencers for several of my rifles and that it should help to keep the noise down. They seemed to be ok with that also. I didn't mention that when we started shooting that an off duty officer was there to let his young son shoot the gun and video it. I'm sure he (off duty officer) will probably show them the video at some time or another and makes me wonder what will be said.

Ed N.
March 27, 2011, 10:39 PM
2) a noise is presumed to be unreasonable if the noise exceeds a decibel level of 85 after the person making the noise receives notice from a magistrate or peace officer that the noise is a public nuisance

Normal talking levels are around 60 db. Shooting a firearm is well over 100 db. Basically the officers aren't going to have measured the DB but if they have received a call from someone complaining about the noise than it is obviously disturbing the peace. I receive this call multiple times at night but most of the time its loud/drunk college kids.

The sound would have to be 85dB at the resident of the person making the complaint. Sound level falls off with the square of the distance (inverse square law). If the complaining neighbor is several hundred yards away I doubt very much whether 85dB could be measured at his home.

Furthermore, these levels are usually applied to continuous sounds, like loud music or machinery. Only expensive, high-end sound level meters will be able to respond quickly enough to make an accurate measurement of a distant gunshot. For a complaint to stand up, such a measurement would have to be made as evidence.

IANAL, but I am an engineer and I spent the early years of my career working in the audio industry.

Owen Sparks
March 28, 2011, 12:24 AM
The problem that brought the police was NOT the gun, it was the NOISE. I had a similar problem a while back with a neighbor who was running a chain saw at 7AM on Saturday morning for several weeks in a row.

hogshead
March 28, 2011, 12:34 AM
Be polite tell them you are not breaking the law. Keep on shooting. Had the same thing happen to me, now the law responds but they just throw their hand up and ride by. I dont shoot on Sunday though.

franko07
March 28, 2011, 12:36 AM
I lived across the street from a huge motorcross for 10+ years. That being said, they can't do anything. I had a neighbor take them to court claiming that it was peaceful when he moved in but after a year and him being a lawyer the only thing that happened is that the motocross owner offered to help move his deck from the "motocross" side to the less noise ridden side of his house. Motocross started getting really loud at sun up and didn't stop till sunset most weekends.

essayons21
March 28, 2011, 07:10 PM
I haven't seen your berm or backstop, but if I were your neighbor I would be awfully nervous about you shooting a belt fed .50 BMG on only 20 acres. A bullet of that size and velocity can retain lethal energy for a long way, even after hitting a berm.

You really should try to find an opportunity to shoot at night with tracers, it will give you a whole different concept of what sort of berm and background is necessary.

Magnuumpwr
March 28, 2011, 08:56 PM
Essay, this isn't my first or second fifty cal, but my third. Yes I do know what tracers do, that is the exact reason I don't shoot them. Of all the fifty cal ammo, it has to be one of the most unstable of the bunch. Most all of my ammo is either AP or API and when they hit something, they just push on through. Never mind the noise, was calling around to several Class III dealers pricing silencers and will be contacting a reputable machine shop to turn my barrel down to accomodate a silencer. Then I will be at or below the other neighbors that shoot their hunting rifles. There will just be the sonic crack till I can get a good line up on some sub-sonic ammo.

Magnuumpwr
April 15, 2011, 07:03 PM
jcreid06, you were correct in your assumption. The reason the deputies showed up was because someone called in automatic gun fire. This tid bit of information I received from an ATF agent that contacted me concerning the report to the sheriff's office. After talking to him for a little while and explaining that I have video of the gun being fired, he chalked it up to someone not knowing the difference between auto and semi auto gun fire. I also let him know that I was more than willing to have him come inspect my gun, but let him know that shooting it was out of the question. It would disturb one of my neighbors peace. He just laughed and told me that it wouldn't be necessary and told me to have a nice day and to be careful while shooting.

double bogey
April 15, 2011, 07:33 PM
5) makes unreasonable noise in a public place other than a sport shooting range or in or near a private residence that he has no right to occupy.

It's on private property, that we assume he has a right to occupy. I also doubt if they are very far away that the noise level is 84 decibels. I would invite the sheriff to shoot and continue shooting.

ClickClickD'oh
April 15, 2011, 07:56 PM
Ed N. is correct in his reading of the law. The noise would have to be in excess of 85db at the location the complaint was made from, not the location the noise originated from.

CapnMac
April 15, 2011, 08:12 PM
Given that 20 acres is a square about 300 yards to a side, getting that 85dB to reach the neighbors seems unlikely. Even a narrow lot, one maybe 100 yards wide will be 960 yards deep.

Which makes me wonder about the neighbor.

And, considering that few public ranges will let you shoot belt-fed (even SA in .22lr) at all, kind of reads like catch-22. A bit like hanging a suppressor on an M3; or getting 875gr down to sub-sonic. All possible, just the trading-off gets wearisome a bit.

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