Ohio traffic cameras still making headlines

Traffic cameras have had a contentious time recently in Ohio, and the after-effects of court hearings and legislation about their use may continue into the new year. According to the Columbus Dispatch, the attorney for Bradley Walker, a Kentucky man who challenged Toledo's procedures for assessing penalties from traffic cameras, has filed a motion asking the Ohio Supreme Court to reconsider their December 18 decision upholding these practices. We discussed the Court's opinion in detail, here.

Some basics about the case: Toledo had established an administrative system that provided civil penalties (fines) to vehicle owners who were caught violating traffic laws by their traffic cameras instead of having the cases heard by the municipal court. The Ohio Supreme Court upheld this practice, finding that it complemented the work of courts and did not restrict it.Walker's attorney filed the motion for reconsideration yesterday, arguing that the decision "allowed the city council to exercise a power it does not possess" when it took away Walker's day in municipal court.

Meanwhile, although the Ohio Supreme Court upheld Toledo's procedures for fining motorists caught violating traffic laws by these cameras, they may not be around in Ohio for much longer, due to legislation signed by Governor Kasich on December 19. Senate Bill 342, which was sponsored by Cincinnati-area Representative Bill Seitz, requires a police officer to be present while a camera is operating and witness traffic violations before a ticket can be issued. The new law permits the officer to issue the ticket him or herself, or allows the city to assess a civil penalty if the officer was present, but did not issue the ticket.

WCPO-TV reports that previous legislation sponsored by Rep. Ron Maag (R-Lebanon) and Rep. Dale Mallory (D-Cincinnati) sought to ban traffic cameras outright, but stalled in the Ohio Senate, partially due to lobbying by the camera companies and police, according to attorney Mike Allen. Cincinnati and area municipalities have a lengthy history with traffic light cameras, which the WCPO article details. Cincinnati voters banned the use of traffic cameras in 2008.

The new legislation passed both the Ohio House and Senate with significant support. According to the Dispatch, however, some municipalities are considering challenging the law in Ohio courts.

Click for the Ohio Legislative Service Commission's analysis of the new law.