Springfield appeals red light camera ruling

The city of Springfield has appealed a local judge’s ruling regarding its authority to operate red light cameras to a state appellate court.

Springfield filed its appeal to the Second District Court of Appeals in Dayton Thursday afternoon.

On Monday, Clark County Commons Pleas Court Judge Doug Rastatter upheld the state’s new legal restrictions on traffic cameras that require a police officer’s presence when tickets are issued, rejecting the city’s argument that the law is unconstitutional.

“We believe the determination is wrong,” said Springfield Law Director Jerry Strozdas. “We believe this is a power granted to the city by the Ohio Constitution. We think it’s important and it needs to be addressed. We’re going to take it up a step and see what happens.”

Springfield suspended its red light camera program in March after the passage of Senate Bill 342. It also filed a lawsuit against the state, claiming the new law violates the city’s home-rule authority.

Rastatter said in his summary judgment Monday that the law is valid under the home-rule provisions of the state Constitution. Ohio’s argument has been that uniform law enforcement standards — like speed limits — are within the legislature’s power to regulate.

Earlier this month, Ohio’s Second District Court of Appeals rejected the city of Dayton’s claims that it has the right to use the devices.

The Springfield case has aspects that the Dayton appeal doesn’t have, Strozdas said, including different arguments. He’s not sure when the Court of Appeals will hear the case.

“We expect it to be a different case,” Strozdas said.

Springfield leaders have said they won’t turn the city’s cameras back on until the issue is settled statewide in order to avoid driver confusion. Springfield has 17 cameras at 10 intersections.

The Springfield Police Division saw a 47 percent increase in the red light violation detection rates in May. The number of red light detections also rose to more than 5,300 in May, police said, up about 41 percent from the same time last year.

Springfield has collected about $3.4 million in fines from red light cameras since they were installed in 2006. It stands to lose about $250,000 this year if the cameras stay off. Springfield has issued about 77,000 citations so far.

City leaders insist the program isn’t about money. In 2007, 90 crashes occurred at the intersections with red light cameras. Last year, that number fell to 44 crashes, a 51 percent reduction.

The city is also awaiting a conclusion to similar appeals in Lucas and Summit counties, Strozdas said.

“We’ll see what they have to say,” he said. “The principle of home rule is an important one that we think needs fleshed out and vindicated.”

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