So you wanna bust your neighbor...
So, it's been 30 minutes, and the dog next door still won't quit yapping. What now?
First, under the new Albemarle anti-barking law, you need to determine whether or not your neighbor's property is five acres or larger. If not, you can proceed under the newly-approved barking ordinance.
Start by ignoring the address on Albemarle County's website; the Charlottesville-Albemarle Magistrate's office hasn't been downtown for at least five years.
Now located at 1610 Avon Street, it's next to the local jail. And although it's supposedly open 24 hours a day, on the morning of our visit, June 16, we had to wait while something urgent was rushed to a courthouse downtown.
"Take a number," jokes a man in front of me when the office finally reopens 40 minutes after my arrival.
Six chairs are lined up in a formation reminiscent of a passport line in a post office. I take a seat.
Another thirty minutes go by, and a magistrate invites me in. I am in a room with a table and chair, and there is a sheet of thick glass separating the magistrate and me.
Magistrate Rovelle Brown walks me through the process of issuing a summons. "You need to give probable cause," says Brown, "and from that we'll determine whether a summons needs to be issued or not." He tells me your evidence could be a witness; it could be a videotape– "whatever evidence you want to present."
Brown says the complainant must appear in person and must "swear their testimony under oath." Next, they have to fill out a criminal complaint form, complete with their name, a description of the barking crime, and the name/address of the accused– the dog's owner, that is. If he determines that there is probable cause, the Magistrate will "normally set the summons up within ten days."
In the four or five days that this ordinance has existed, Brown hasn't yet seen a barking complaint. In fact, he didn't even hear about the impending ordinance until it had been passed.
"I've been working 12 years as a magistrate," Brown says, "and [dog barking] complaints are very rare." He says that once the public finds out about this ordinance, however, more complaints of this type may show up.
"It's going to be a hard job," Brown says, "sometimes we get people in here who have a grudge against another individual." Brown says he'll have to do his best to "weed through" cases like these.