New state restrictions on red-light and speed-detection camera programs that went into effect this week prompted the city of Trotwood to suspend its photo-enforcement program.
But the city of Dayton remains defiant and has no plans to change its program despite the threat of financial penalties, claiming a preliminary injunction granted to Toledo blocks the new law statewide.
Dayton officials say the new Ohio law — which reduces local government funding to cities that use automated traffic cameras — violates home rule and is unconstitutional.
“The city of Dayton will continue with its photo-enforcement program that has been proven to reduce accidents, save lives and make Dayton’s streets safer,” said Toni Bankston, a city spokesperson.
Critics of automated traffic cameras say they are little more than a cash grab to fill government coffers. Supporters say cameras reduce crashes and change dangerous driving behaviors.
Traffic camera restrictions included in Ohio House Bill 62 took effect Wednesday.
The new state law requires cities and jurisdictions that operate automated red-light and speed-detection cameras to report their revenues from fines to the state. The state then will reduce the amount of local government funds jurisdictions receive by an equal amount.
The new law ensures cities truly are operating red-light and speed cameras for public safety purposes, said state Rep. Niraj Antani, R-Miami Twp.
“Red-light cameras are too often used to police for profit, and this practice must stop,” he said. “These new restrictions will protect Ohioans from becoming victims to overzealous local politicians trying to make a quick buck to fund their pet projects.”
The new state law also requires appeals of citations to be heard in court, rather than by an administrative officer.
But last month, the city of Toledo was granted a preliminary injunction in Lucas County Common Pleas Court to prevent enforcement of the new law as the city challenges its constitutionality.
Toledo claims the new law violates home rule and expects to raise other constitutional issues.
Judge Myron Duhart ruled that compliance with the new law would be costly and that there was no harm in maintaining the status quo.
But Trotwood is not waiting for Toledo’s case to be decided before taking action.
The city has decided to suspend its traffic-camera program pending a decision from the Ohio Supreme Court on the issue, said Trotwood City Manager Quincy Pope Sr.
Pope said the city stands by its home-rule power and its right to address the needs of the community, but it does not plan to take legal action of its own.
“We are aware of Judge Duhart’s decision,” Pope said. “However, we are going to wait on the high court’s decision to resolve this issue.”
Trotwood has 12 fixed traffic cameras, with locations that include North Union Road, Free Pike, Olive Road and Salem Avenue. The cameras were fully reactivated Jan. 1, 2018.
Dayton officials remain sure that the law will be overturned by the courts, and say the injunction in Lucas County blocks the state from enforcing photo enforcement provisions in HB 62.
“An injunction issued against a party is effective statewide,” Bankston said.
Dayton’s elected leaders have said traffic cameras make the city’s roadways safer and the new law is unconstitutional and will not withstand a legal challenge.
This newspaper spoke with attorneys with the city of Toledo who say Dayton seems to have a legal argument that the common pleas court injunction could be binding for other Ohio municipalities.
But it’s hard to say for sure what could happen, because court opinions tend to be binding for the jurisdictions where they are filed, said John Madigan, senior attorney with the city of Toledo law department.
“The opinion itself doesn’t limit it to Toledo or Lucas County because the state of Ohio is enjoined,” Madigan said. “If you take that language literally, it means the state can’t enforce these laws anywhere within Ohio.”
Injunctions like this raise questions about their broader applicability, but the typical trend in federal courts and many state courts is that they only apply statewide if a judge specifies it, said Marc Clauson, professor of law and history at Cedarville University.
“If the judge says it applies to the whole state, it still becomes a legal question that has to be decided later, and it could be used as a precedent regardless, if it happened anywhere else in the state,” Clauson said. “But I think right now, it only applies to Lucas County.”
The Ohio Attorney General’s office declined to comment, citing three pending lawsuits.
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