Red Light Cameras in Ohio
The use of traffic cameras by law enforcement in Ohio is a perennially contentious issue. On one side, city governments say that they are about safety. On the other hand, detractors say that it is nothing by a cash grab – with little impact on public safety. Wherever you fall in this debate, you should know the following important legal information:
Traffic Cameras in Toledo, Ohio
Suppose you go to check your mail like you do every day, and you find a notice for a traffic fine from a month ago. If you’re like a lot of Ohio citizens, you have a strong opinion about the police using traffic cameras to enforce speed and red light laws in this fashion.
Starting around the year 2000, Cities around Ohio began using stationary cameras to monitor and fine drivers for violations of various traffic laws. This was met with widespread public outcry. Politicians were quick to line up to say that these programs were instituted to protect driver safety, while detractors said it amounted to a thinly veiled cash grab.
In 2015, on the heels of this public outcry, the State of Ohio passed a law requiring that an officer be physically stationed at each camera, a three year traffic study be conducted prior to the deployment of a camera system at a specific location and that certain “leeway” be provided in the programming of the cameras.
In July of 2017, The Ohio Supreme Court said in a 5-2 decision that this 2015 state law that makes it all but impossible for local governments to use traffic cameras is unconstitutional because it conflicts with cities’ home-rule authority – in other words, their authority to govern themselves without interference from the State.
In 2018, the Ohio Legislature passed a law that would withhold Local Government Fund revenue-sharing dollars from all cities, villages, and townships with automated, stationary red-light and speed-enforcement cameras in an amount equal to what they collect in civil fines. The City of Toledo has sues to invalidate this law. The case is set for oral arguments on April 24th, 2018. Toledo has a lot at stake, as it collects an estimated $2.3 million a year based on data through May, 2017.
A legal battle on this issue has been being waged in Ohio courts for years. In Ohio, there is a concept in the law called “home rule.” In general, this provides local governments the ability to govern as they see fit with respect to local police, sanitation and the like. The Ohio Constitution, enacted in 1912 states that “municipalities shall have authority to exercise all powers of local self-government and to adopt and enforce within their limits such local police, sanitary and other similar regulations, as are not in conflict with general laws.”
The Constitution further states that “any municipality may frame and adopt or amend a charter for its government and may, subject to the provisions of section 3 of this article, exercise thereunder all powers of local self-government.”
In 2015, after public uproar over the use of these cameras, the Ohio legislature tried to deal a death blow to the practice by passing a bill requiring that a law officer by present at the cameras, prohibiting fines unless a driver exceeded the speed limit by 6 miles per hour or more in school zones and 10 miles per hour or more elsewhere and requiring governments to conduct extensive safety studies prior to use of cameras.
In 2017, this was found to violate home rule. Long story short, the use of these cameras is legal – for now.
No matter where you stand on this issue, you have a right to be informed of law enforcement’s use of these cameras – including where they are. To see the location of every traffic enforcement camera in Toledo, Ohio, please see a map prepared by the Toledo, Ohio traffic attorneys at Sawan & Sawan.
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Sawan & Sawan is an Ohio based traffic defense law firm with Toledo traffic lawyers licensed to practice law in the State of Ohio. If you have been charged with a traffic offense and would like to speak further about your specific legal matter, call Sawan & Sawan today at 419-900-0955 to schedule a free consultation.