Columbus, Other Ohio Cities Await Decision On Red Light Cameras

A case before the Ohio Supreme Court could determine future use of red light cameras(Photo: flickr)
A case before the Ohio Supreme Court could determine future use of red light cameras(Photo: flickr)

A case that tests how cities can use automated cameras to catch and fine those who speed and run red lights went before the Ohio Supreme Court today.

The case comes from a ticket that Bradley Walker of Kentucky got from an automated traffic camera when driving through Toledo in 2009. In 2011, he filed suit, claiming that the process by which he would appeal the ticket was unconstitutional. Cities typically send a camera ticket appeal to an administrative hearing rather than into the court system, since the violation is civil, not criminal. And that’s appropriate under Ohio’s constitution, says Adam Loukx, who argued for the city of Toledo.

“A principal part of that constitution is the home rule authority of a city to self-govern. And a principal part of self-government, we submit, is the ability to set up administrative appeal boards to have quasi-judicial hearings on matters of local controversy,” says Loukx

Loukx said if all disputes ended up in the courts, they’d be overwhelmed – so cities have set up administrative panels such as civil service commissions, tax appeals boards, even taxicab commissions and dance hall review boards. And he said anyone who wants to appeal a traffic camera ticket can do so after they pay the fine. And if they don’t like the hearing officer’s decision, they can take it to court – though he said that hasn’t happened often, and that information about the court option usually doesn’t accompany the ticket when it’s sent in the mail.

But Andrew Mayle, representing the cited driver Bradley Walker, argued that the administrative hearing process created by Toledo is unconstitutional because state lawmakers haven’t allowed it.
“The municipal court has jurisdiction unless the General Assembly says otherwise. Toledo cannot self-create an exception,” says Mayle.

And Mayle said drivers who don’t want to pay the tickets while they appeal the violations could risk losing their cars because the law allows the city to act on those tickets as if they were debts. After the arguments, the attorneys for the city of Toledo and the camera operating company declined comment. But Maurice Thompson from the libertarian 1851 Center for Constitutional Law was talking. He helped Bradley Walker’s team, but for a bigger overall goal.

“As a nominal legal matter, winning this case for us does not shut down the camera programs. What it means is that red light camera tickets have to go through the municipal court. Now, as a pragmatic economic matter, what it means is that it’s no longer profitable and lucrative for cities to pursue these things,” says Thompson.

And the driver, Bradley Walker, was also there to see his case argued before the state’s highest court.
“Kind of surprised that it went like it did. I will tell you that, did I expect when we first started talking about what was there that we didn’t appear today? I can’t tell you that I would ever believe that would be the case.”

A previous Ohio Supreme Court decision ruled cameras to catch speeders and red light runners are legal. It could be several months before a ruling on the hearing process, which Thompson says is used by the 15 Ohio communities that have traffic cameras.

  • Red Light Camera

    Red light cameras are uncontitutoinal for reasons that no one is discussing yet. (They profit by perpetuating the flaw in our safety system)

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  • lensming

    Or, you could just try driving within the traffic laws. You really want to screw the communities and companies providing these cameras? Don’t give them anything to ticket! But oh my no, we like speeding, running red lights, causing accidents, because we’re so important and in such a hurry. Get outta my way!

    • chettmixx

      I just received a ticket from one of these cameras in Dayton. Been driving for 20 years (1 speeding ticket in 2004 nothing else). the pictures from 3 weeks ago and I’m not sure what I was doing but I can tell you I’ve rarely had a close call and I’d rather police take care of the violations to give an element of understanding to each violation.

      • onyx

        Regardless of how rarely you may break the law, when you do end up breaking the law, it still counts. Don’t run red lights. What understanding is there to add? Anything you say is an excuse.

  • Matt

    These cameras are scams. Most of the tickets they give out for for turning right on red. This just causes more traffic congestion after people realize they have to completely stop to turn right or they will get a ticket.

    • TJ

      My friend has received two tickets in about 2 months. She is close to 55 years old and has never had any violations until these cameras. Not one her entire life. That tells me something. She is just inching up at the red lights and getting burned.

      • onyx

        That tells me something too. It tells me she’s gotten away with breaking the law for 40 years, and now that we have this technology she can no longer break the law. Drive correctly and follow the law or get burned.

        • wallace gary

          It’s a pain to fight the ticket. It is easier to just pay the $95. You are guilty until proven innocent. Of course city officials and police like these cameras – they insure they will get their raises, new police cruisers and office equipment. These cameras have been deemed illegal in many other places. However, Columbus doesn’t care. They want the extra revenue. By the way, 1000 people challenged their tickets and 200 won. So the camera was wrong at least 20 percent of the time. That’s horrible! What about those people who are innocent but just pay the ticket anyway because of the inconvenience? It’s a scam. Kangaroo courts…