Love them or hate them, the argument over red light cameras in Ohio will resume next week when the Ohio Supreme Court hears arguments on a lawsuit launched by the city of Dayton against the 2014 state law that effectively bans the electronic traffic cops.
Dayton is arguing that three elements of the 2014 law are unconstitutional because they undercut local municipalities’ home-rule authority to self-govern. A ruling on the case will likely have statewide ramifications.
Dayton first installed red light cameras in June 2002 and then in February 2010 added cameras to catch speeders as well. Tickets were treated as civil infractions, rather than criminal, and resulted in fines but no points on a driver’s license. A police officer would review video and photos before a citation would be issued.
Other Ohio cities, large and small, made use of the cameras to enforce traffic laws and generate revenue.
In December 2014, lawmakers passed a bill that severely curtails use of the cameras by requiring that a full-time police officer be present when the cameras are on, mandating that a traffic study be conducted before a camera is installed, requiring a public awareness campaign before a camera is installed and limiting citations to speeders going 10 miles per hour over the limit in most areas and 6 mph in school zones.
The Ohio Supreme Court in 2008 upheld the right of cities to use traffic cameras and in December 2014 the court upheld the authority of cities to use administrative appeals processes to enforce traffic laws using cameras.
The city of Dayton argues that the General Assembly specifically wrote the law to block local jurisdictions from using the cameras, which is a limit on municipal home-rule powers granted by the state constitution. Dayton had more than 36 cameras operating when the law took effect. The city’s case has the support of the Ohio Municipal League, which represents 700 cities and villages.
The state, meanwhile, argues that municipalities can still use the cameras to issue traffic citations, as long as the local ordinances don’t conflict with state law. The state says the law provides a statewide framework for overseeing traffic cameras.
Oral arguments before the seven-member Ohio Supreme Court are scheduled for Jan. 10.
The Dayton case is the first of several to make it to the supreme court and a ruling is expected to settle a conflict among lower court rulings on traffic camera cases in Dayton, Springfield and Toledo.