Dayton battles state to keep traffic cameras on

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The hearing was held in Ohio’s 2nd District Court of Appeals, following an appeal filed by the state to fight a local injunction against a state law requiring a full-time, uniformed officer be present when a red light or speed camera snaps photos of motorists breaking the law.

Dayton’s assistant city attorney John Musto wasted no time attacking the state on a law he said violates the city’s home rule rights to enforce laws that protect its citizens.

“There’s no other way to say it. It’s a sham,” Musto said. “The provisions that are challenged are not general law, they’re nonsensical, they waste police resources and they’re specifically intended to act as a burden as a de facto ban on photo enforcement.”

It’s the second time this year Dayton’s gone to court to fight Ohio Senate Bill 342, which took effect March 23. It requires jurisdictions using automated cameras to issue citations for speeding and running red lights to place an officer at the devices during their operation. The Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas on April 2 issued an injunction that said the state’s ticket camera restrictions were unenforceable.

Dayton’s cameras stayed on until language in the state’s budget indicated the city would lose state funding in an amount equal to what was billed in traffic tickets from March — an amount likely well beyond how much was collected from those tickets. Now the city only issue tickets when an officer is present, as outlined in SB 342.

State assistant attorney general Halli Watson said the law as written by the general assembly is meant to standardize traffic laws in Ohio, similar to those that pertain to speed limits and stop signs. She also argued the provisions requiring an officer be present merely go a step further than Dayton’s requirement that an officer review footage before a ticket is issued.

“Having a police officer present inserts a level of human involvement and common sense that you can never have when you’re dealing solely with an automated camera enforcement system,” she said.

Dayton is one of three Ohio cities challenging the state law. Similar injunctions were filed on behalf of Akron and Toledo in their respective counties. The three-judge panel for the 2nd district court in Dayton could make a decision as soon as Friday on whether or not to uphold Dayton’s injunction.

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