Ohio City Plans to Stop Fixed-Site Traffic Camera Citations

By DAN SEWELL | January 7, 2015

One of the early users of traffic camera enforcement in Ohio announced Monday it will stop using fixed-position cameras because of a new state law.

Dayton has used camera enforcement for more than a decade, but city police spokeswoman Cara Zinski-Neace said budgetary considerations led to the decision to curtail their use when the Ohio law takes effect in March. The law passed last month regulates statewide use of the devices and requires that a police officer be present for camera-issued citations.

Opponents of the legislation said it will make it impractical to use cameras for their primary benefit, increasing safety by stretching police resources. Camera use had spread in Ohio in recent years, but backlash also grew from critics who say they’re more about raising revenues than safety.

Dayton police said they will continue to use cameras with officers in vehicles that are also equipped with radar. The three mobile units will be used in high-incident intersections. The department said it also plans to use cameras to record traffic and crash data.

The city warned that motorists cited previously still need to pay their fines and those with three or more outstanding citations could have their vehicles impounded.

Dayton is among several cities and villages still facing motorists’ lawsuits charging that the camera citation systems violate constitutional rights such as to due legal process. Motorists’ attorney Josh Engel said Monday that lawyers will continue to seek refunds for those who paid Dayton citations, although the request for a court order to stop the program would likely become unnecessary.

Some city officials across the state have discussed a legal challenge to the new law, although sponsor state Sen. Bill Seitz, R-Cincinnati, has said he thinks it will withstand legal tests, noting that it’s not an outright ban.

The Ohio Supreme Court has twice upheld cities’ rights to use cameras under local “home-rule” powers. The attorney for a motorist who challenged a camera-generated speeding ticket in Toledo last week asked the high court to reconsider its 4-3 ruling Dec. 18 against him.

Justice Sharon Kennedy wrote for the majority that the court reaffirmed that Ohio’s constitution grants “municipalities the authority to protect the safety and well-being of their citizens by establishing automated systems for imposing civil liability on traffic-law violators.” Justice William O’Neill wrote in dissent that the Toledo case wasn’t about home rule, but about courts being usurped.

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