Ohio Supreme Court Strikes Some Camera-Related Traffic Laws

COLUMBUS, Ohio (CN) – A divided Ohio Supreme Court on Thursday  struck down several of the state’s red-light and speed camera laws as unconstitutional.

The 5-3 ruling struck down the requirement that a police officer be present at each camera, and the rules on how many miles per hour over the limit will result in a ticket.

Writing for the majority, Justice Patrick Fischer said municipalities cannot be compelled to run a public information campaign, conduct safety studies and publish notice in a local newspaper before installing cameras.

The law on the presence of an officer at each camera “infringes on the municipality’s legislative authority without serving an overriding state interest and is therefore unconstitutional,” Fischer wrote.

In addition, the law prohibiting cities from assessing fines unless the speed limit is exceeded by 6 mph in a school or park zone and 10 mph in other areas “unconstitutionally limits the municipality’s legislative powers without serving an overriding state interest,” Fischer added.

He also found that the public information and safety study requirements before installation of cameras “unconstitutionally limits the municipality’s home-rule authority without serving an overriding state interest.”

Dayton began using the cameras in 2002, and the number of violation-related accidents decreased. The state law restricting the cameras took effect in March 2015, and Dayton sued on constitutional grounds.

Dayton prevailed at trial court, the appeals court reversed. The city appealed to the state supreme court in Columbus.

“Requiring an officer’s presence at a traffic camera directly contradicts the purpose of a traffic camera — to conserve police resources,” Fischer wrote.

He said the speeding-leeway provision “would operate as a de facto increase in speed limits in the limited areas covered by a traffic camera.”

Also, Fischer noted that “the public traveling through municipalities includes motorists who are not members of the local community targeted by the public-information campaign and local-publication requirement.”

Justice Judith French wrote in concurrence that the contested provisions are not “general laws” and therefore violate Dayton’s home-rule authority.

“They apply not to citizens but to municipalities,” she wrote.

Justice R. Patrick DeWine dissented.

“Safety studies help satisfy two concerns — whether traffic cameras are being deployed for safety purposes and whether they actually work,” he wrote.

“The lead opinion’s embrace of courts’ expanded role in determining a statewide interest can only add to the ad hoc nature of general-law determinations,” DeWine added. “It’s time to return to the Constitution.”

Justice William O’Neill also wrote in dissent.

“Metaphorically speaking, the city of Dayton seems to prefer blue stop signs, and it suggests that forcing a city to have red stop signs violates the Ohio Constitution,” he wrote. “Surprisingly, the majority opinion agrees. I do not.”

“The General Assembly has said that stop signs are red and traffic cameras need a police officer to watch them doing their work,” O’Neill added. “I do not agree with what the General Assembly has said here, but the Ohio Constitution requires me to agree with the Legislature’s right to say this, absurd though it may be.”

%d bloggers like this: