June 4, 2014
CINCINNATI (AP) — New lawsuits Wednesday targeted traffic cameras used to cite motorists for allegedly speeding or running red lights in two Dayton suburbs, he latest legal challenge to camera use in Ohio.
The cases charge that the automated enforcement systems in Trotwood and West Carrollton violate motorists’ constitutional rights to due process and improperly bypass the court system. Attorneys from Cincinnati-based Michael K. Allen & Associates filing the lawsuits in Montgomery County have been involved in several other cases involving cameras, and have won judge’s orders shutting off cameras in the villages of Elmwood Place and New Miami.
The filings Wednesday state that the traffic camera system each city uses is “invalid and unenforceable because it fails to provide adequate due process to vehicle owners,” and also “impermissibly divests” local courts of jurisdiction over the cases.
The lawsuits were against the two cities, their heads of police, and Redflex Traffic Systems, a Phoenix, Arizona-based company that contracts with municipalities across the country to provide and operate traffic cameras. West Carrollton’s city manager, Brad Townsend, said Wednesday that the city hadn’t seen the lawsuit yet and couldn’t comment. Officials of Trotwood and the camera vendor didn’t respond immediately to requests for comment.
Dayton attorney Thomas Manning and Paul DeMarco of Cincinnati are also representing the Dayton area motorists who are suing. Both lawsuits seek class action status on behalf of other motorists.
“These two cities were the next ones where citizens have brought us a lot of information,” said attorney Josh Engel, explaining why Trotwood and West Carrollton were added to the list of sued municipalities. The attorneys earlier sued the city of Dayton. That case is pending.
Meanwhile, Ohio’s Supreme Court will hear arguments next week in a driver’s lawsuit against Toledo’s cameras, and proposed legislation in the Statehouse would restrict or change rules for camera use statewide.
Supporters say traffic cameras stretch police resources and make drivers and communities safer. Most of Ohio’s largest cities use them, and the state Supreme Court upheld camera enforcement in the city of Akron in 2008.
Critics argue that they are mainly meant to raise money, and that they don’t give ticketed motorists a fair chance to challenge evidence, confront accusers, and have their day in court.
The latest lawsuits say that Trotwood has been using cameras since 2006, reaping as much as $327,466 in camera citation revenues in 2012 in a city of some 24,000 residents. It states that West Carrollton started using them in 2009, and they brought in $158,038 last year in the city of some 13,000 people.
A recent series of lower-court rulings in Ohio have gone against municipalities that use cameras.
A Hamilton County judge compared Elmwood Place’s camera system to a con artist’s card game, calling it “a scam.” Judge Robert Ruehlman has ordered refunds of fines and fees totaling some $1.8 million in Elmwood Place, where thousands of motorists racked up $105 speeding fines within weeks of the cameras’ installation. The refunds are on hold pending an appellate court ruling.
Butler County Judge Michael Sage didn’t rule immediately on refunds in New Miami, after it was estimated in court that more than $1 million was collected in a little more than a year.