Speeding Tickets by Camera

Speeding Tickets by Camera - 12/12/08

Jeff: You get an official looking letter in the mail. Did you win something? A free gift? No. You got a traffic ticket from the City of Cleveland with a picture by a traffic camera of the back of your car and your license plate saying you went 6 miles over the speed limit. In 2007, over 120,000 of you got such a letter. Is it legal? Here to discuss the traffic camera is attorney Michael Solomon.

Jeff: Right around 71st and Chester there is a traffic camera. Coming here early on Sunday morning it is easy to go a little over the limit. A few weeks later you get the letter. Is that legal?

Mike: Unfortunately, it is. I must admit I got one of those letters too. The Ohio Supreme Court in the beginning of 2008 stated that cities under the home rule provisions of the Ohio Constitution can adopt an ordinance imposing civil penalties for speeders caught on the camera.

The Ohio Supreme Court case involved a camera around a school in Akron. Akron put the cameras in after a child was hit in a hit-and-run accident by the school. The camera has reduced speeding in the area.

Jeff: I don't want to sound cynical, but isn't a major reason for the traffic camera to raise revenue?

Mike: The Ohio Supreme Court said that doesn't matter. As long as the law does not violate the Ohio Constitution regarding home rule, the cities can use the traffic camera even if its sole purpose is money raising.

This case also went before the Federal District Court in Akron. The District Court held that the camera does not violate the US Constitution's right to due process. The person bringing this case is an attorney, and he has vowed to take this to the US Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court.

Jeff: Besides the traffic camera, the other gripe many people have are the speed traps like Lindale's off of I-71. In 2007 Lindale issued over four thousand traffic citations per 100 residents—by far the greatest number per resident than any other city. Is that legal?

Mike: Unfortunately, right now, it is. If you are caught in some of these speed traps you go to Mayor's Court and pay a fine. It's a big money raiser for some cities. There is proposed legislation in the Ohio Senate that would eliminate Mayor's Courts for towns under 200 people and put other restrictions on Mayor's Courts to make them fairer. The bill is actually supported by the Chief Justice of the Ohio Supreme Court. But it is not a law yet. It may pass next year.

Jeff: Well, in the meantime, look out for those traffic cameras and speed traps—unless you like paying tickets.