Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Ohio traffic stop camera update

  The Toledo Blade yesterday carried an update on the status of Ohio HB 69’s  beginning Senate  hearings on the bill that would outlaw red-light enforcement cameras and all but eliminate the use of speed cameras in the state, having  cleared the House Transportation, Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee in June. We thought we'd do the same.

  Toledo officials, for one, have opposed the legislation, having taken in nearly $3 million in traffic fines last year, according to the article, and with a predicted $4.2 million this year. “Fifteen Ohio municipalities,” it continued, “including Toledo, operate traffic-enforcement cameras that result in fines but, unlike criminal violations witnessed by a police officer, do not carry points against a driver’s license or report to insurance companies.”

  The Blade’s article also mentioned “the latest backlash being fueled by Elmwood Place, a small village near Cincinnati where the camera program were shut down by a common pleas court judge who declared it a “scam that the motorists can’t win.”

   There, a group of local residents & businesses filed suit last November,  addressing due process aspects of Elmwood's program, including their contention that "Ohio Revised Code 1905.01 et seq. authorizes the Village of Elmwood Place to establish a Mayor's Court to hear & determine any prosecution for the violation of the municipal corporation…. The Village may only exercise jurisdiction to 'hear & decide' a case pursuant to Chapter 1905 of the Revised Code. As a result, all administrative hearings on Notices of Liability must be conducted before a Mayor’s Court…."

   Hamilton County Common Pleas Court Judge Robert Ruehlman  found in favor of those plaintiffs on Thursday, March 7, 2013, characterizing the Village's program as "nothing more than a high-tech game of
3-card Monty and a scam the motorist cannot win," which pretty much made this a national news story in a very short time. Judge Ruehlman's decision also effectively shut down Elmwood's signal program including any scheduled hearings and, at least temporarily, excused those who have received notices from having to pay those fines. That case reached the Ohio Supreme Court the Aug. 5th., and is still pending.

  ---- Toledo, too, has a like case pending.

  But all is perhaps not lost now that the Senate has a look at the issue. Senators Tom Patton and Shirley Smith back on Sept. 26 introduced their own bill which, on the surface at least, perhaps more precisely zeroes in on at least one of the major issues of the whole debate. SB 196, now in the Government Oversight & Reform Committee, summarizes that,,,,,
   “No municipal corporation, utilizing either its own employees, those of another public entity,or those of a private entity, shall use a traffic law photo-monitoring device to determine compliance with or detect a violation of section 4511.12 of the Revised Code based on the failure to comply with section 4511.13 of  the Revised Code or a substantially equivalent municipal ordinance unless the municipal corporation is authorized to establish a mayor's court under section 1905.01 of the Revised Code."

 ……. And following up on all of that is a story in the San Diego Union Tribune this morning about the City of Poway’s, north of the city of San Diego, deciding next week “whether to rip the poles and cameras from the three intersections in town where they have been flashing their strobes since 2005.

  “The city’s council suspended the camera enforcement program seven months ago at the suggestion of its mayor,  Don Higginson, and all the cameras were deactivated and covered with gray plastic… Since then, accidents at the three intersections have actually decreased, according to city engineers who are now recommending the cameras be pulled altogether.”

  That article says “If Poway does vote to end its association with camera provider Redflex Traffic Safety, it will join other cities such as Escondido, San Diego and El Cajon, which have all eliminated red-light camera enforcement this year.”

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