• The Future of Speed and Red Light Cameras in Ohio
  • April 7, 2015 | Author: Julia B. Carney
  • Law Firm: Strauss Troy Co., L.P.A. - Cincinnati Office
  • Late last year, the Ohio Legislature and Ohio Supreme Court addressed the use of speed and red light enforcement cameras by local governments. Many municipalities in Ohio have authorized the use of an automated traffic law enforcement system that assesses penalties against the vehicle’s owner for speed and red light violations. Therefore, these actions have a significant impact on the ability of the local governments to utilize their traffic enforcement cameras.

    In Walker v. Toledo (2014-Ohio 5461), the plaintiff challenged the authority of the city of Toledo to cite traffic violators identified by the use of cameras through an administrative enforcement process. The Ohio Supreme Court upheld the home-rule authority of municipalities to impose civil liability on traffic violators, under Article XVIII of the Ohio Constitution. The Court also held that Ohio municipalities have home-rule authority to establish administrative hearings related to the civil enforcement of traffic ordinances. The Court reaffirmed its decision in Mendenhall v. Akron (2008-Ohio-270), upholding the constitutionality of municipalities’ civil administrative processes for enforcement of red-light and speeding violations captured by automated camera systems.

    On December 19, 2014, Governor Kasich signed into law Senate Bill 342, which establishes procedures for local governments when implementing an automated traffic law enforcement system. This law goes into effect on March 19, 2015 and had strong support from state legislators from southwest Ohio. The portion of the law which has the most impact on local government is a requirement for a law enforcement officer to be present at the location of the traffic cameras at all times during the operation of the camera. This requirement essentially removes a full-time police officer from critical crime prevention and enforcement duties to oversee the traffic enforcement system. The officer monitoring the camera is not required to issue a ticket for the violation at the time of the violation, but must do so within 30 days.

    The local jurisdiction has numerous other responsibilities in order to implement an automated traffic enforcement system. These responsibilities include:
    • Safety studies and a review of the traffic incidents that had occurred at that location during the past three years for each location where a camera will be installed;
    • A public safety campaign to inform drivers about the use of the photo-monitoring devices;
    • Legal notice in the local newspaper announcing the intent to use the devices with the location of the devices and the date that their use will commence;
    • Signage, indicating the use of the devices, on every state highway entering the jurisdiction and within 300 feet the camera location.
    Senate Bill 342 also clarifies that tickets issued as a civil penalty are not a moving violation and no points are assessed against a person’s driver’s license, nor is the ticket to be reported to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles.

    Speed and red light cameras have been controversial in Ohio and were even referred to by one judge as “a game of three-card Monte.” Despite the fact that the Ohio Supreme Court has upheld the use of these devices, their utility and practicality appears to have been significantly impaired by the Ohio legislature.