The City of Prattville has dropped all charges against a street preacher arrested for using a sound amplifier without a permit.
Last December, Angelo Wilson of Millbrook was preaching in front of a Target in Prattville using a loudspeaker. A police officer soon approached Wilson and informed him he was in violation of city ordinance since he didn't have a permit for the speaker, though reportedly no one had made a noise complaint.
The two began arguing about the ordinance, after which the officer arrested Wilson for disorderly conduct, according to the Alabama Center for Law and Liberty (ACLL), which represented him at trial along with Josh Pendergrass of McDowell, Faulk, & Shirley in Prattville.
"Disorderly conduct and failing to obtain a permit for an amplifier are two separate offenses," Matt Clark, ACLL's President, said. "Failing to obtain a permit is a violation of a city ordinance, but disorderly conduct is a violation of state criminal law. In this case, Wilson was facing a fine of $500 or 3 months in prison for simply failing to get a permit while preaching the Word of God. They charged him with an offense he did not commit, and he was facing criminal penalties as a result."
Clark also argued that the case would be hard to prosecute due to constitutional concerns.
"The religious freedom provisions of both the United States and Alabama Constitutions would have made the City's case very difficult," he said. "In addition, even if the City had amended its charges and focused on the noise ordinance instead of disorderly conduct, the free speech clauses of the United States and Alabama Constitutions likely would have barred the prosecution of this suit."
Clark filed a motion to dismiss the charges against Wilson, claiming that the city had charged him with the wrong offense and that convicting him "would be unconstitutional." The prosecutor agreed to drop the charges after Wilson promised to get a permit before using a loudspeaker in public in the future.
"We commend Prattville for dropping the charges against Mr. Wilson," Clark said. "If failing to issue a permit to Wilson becomes a problem in the future, the Alabama Center for Law and Liberty will be here to assist him."
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