Lakeland Street Preacher’s Noise Case in Court

February 9th, 2011 by Staff

LAKELAND | A judge is considering whether to dismiss a criminal case against a Lakeland street preacher accused of being too loud when delivering the gospel.

Anthony Lowery is charged with violating the city’s noise ordinance, which carries a maximum of up to 60 days in jail.

He was arrested on the morning of May 4, while using a speaker system to preach at the intersection of Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue and Memorial Boulevard.

Polk County Judge Robert E. Griffin heard arguments Tuesday in Lowery’s case, but did not make a decision about whether to dismiss the charges against him.

Assistant State Attorney Jalal Shehadeh said Lowery’s preaching wasn’t the issue in the case, but whether he was unreasonably loud and violated the city’s noise ordinance.

“It has nothing to do with what Mr. Lowery was actually saying,” he said.

The city’s ordinance on noise disturbances includes amplifying a voice in a manner or to a volume that annoys someone in a residence or business.

Lowery’s lawyer, J. Kevin Hayslett of Clearwater, argued the Lakeland ordinance is vague and subjective as well as infringes on his client’s right to freedom of expression.

“The problem here is that there is no significant government interest to quell, quash or stop him from preaching,” said Hayslett, who is representing Lowery for free.

Lowery had been preaching at the corner for nine years without an arrest until officers one day subjectively determined he was a noise disturbance, Hayslett said.

“No decibel readings were taken by the officers … He was told to stop preaching, if he wouldn’t that he would be arrested,” Hayslett said. “He told them that he would continue preaching, and he was arrested.”

Lowery’s arrest was unusual in Lakeland.

In 2009, more than 2,300 noise complaints in Lakeland resulted in police giving out eight notices to appear in court but they made no arrests.

At the time of Lowery’s arrest, LPD Sgt. Gary Gross said his refusal to comply with officers’ requests to quiet down left them no option but to arrest him.

[ Jason Geary can be reached at jason.geary@theledger.com or 863-802-7536. ]


One Response

  1. david stirewalt

    i think we need leave the preacher alone the men is this doing his job the law need go after the ones whith thies raido so load you cant even drive around

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