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Ohio Supreme Court Case Will Affect Local Traffic Camera Suits

U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration
U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration

You open your mail and there it is – a picture of your car allegedly speeding through town or sailing through the red light at an intersection. Ready to proclaim your innocence, you wait for your day in court. But, if you reside in any of the 15 Ohio communities that use traffic enforcement cameras, that’s not what you get. In most cases, you’ll get an administrative hearing.

That's the reason traffic cameras are being challenged in courts around Ohio. One case has reached the Ohio Supreme Court and could have an impact on local communities that use traffic cameras.

Lawsuits have been filed in Toledo (the case before the Ohio Supreme Court), Dayton, and now Trotwood and West Carrollton. In each case, the charge is that traffic enforcement cameras violate motorists’ rights to due process.

Josh Engel is an attorney with Michael K. Allen & Associates, the Cincinnati-based law firm handling the two newest cases.

“If you’re going to issue a person a ticket for speeding," Engel says, "whether it’s because you had a police officer catch them with a radar gun, or sitting at the corner and see them run a red light, or weather you do it from a camera, you should do it the same way, you should write them a ticket and give them an opportunity to go to municipal court to challenge that ticket.”

Last week the Ohio Supreme Court heard arguments in the Toledo case.  If the plaintiffs win, cities like Trotwood and West Carrollton would have to let motorists appeal camera citations before a judge. 

Engel says it's a misconception that these lawsuits seek to get rid of enforcement cameras.

“There is nothing in the decision before the Supreme Court that would stop a city from setting up traffic cameras or speed cameras," he says, "and there is nothing in our lawsuit that say these are inherently bad devices or unlawful devices.” 

Engel’s firm has already won lower-court rulings in New Miami in Butler Co., and Elmwood Place in Hamilton.  

Cities using traffic enforcement cameras say they help local law enforcement and make communities safer. Critics argue the cameras are simply meant to bring in more revenue to local governments.