Dayton Continues To Employ Traffic Cameras Despite Ohio Supreme Court Decision
Citations generated from traffic cameras tend to be a nuisance for most drivers. However, the Ohio Supreme Court’s recent decision now makes traffic-camera citations a nuisance for local governments. On May 19, 2022, the Ohio Supreme Court unanimously upheld a 2019 state law that reduces state funding to municipalities with traffic-cameras based on the revenues received from the citations. Click here to read the case.
On July 3, 2019, the Ohio General Assembly enacted R.C. 5747.502(B), which requires municipalities to report to the tax commissioner the fines collected from traffic cameras by July 31 of each year. Once these revenues are reported, the tax commissioner reduces a municipalities state funding based off the revenues generated from these traffic-camera citations. See. C. 5747.502(A)(6) and (C). Additionally, municipalities are required to pay for the costs and fees associated with the traffic-camera citations, unless these citations are generated from traffic violations in school zones. See .C. 4511.099(A).
Newburgh Heights is located in East Cleveland and employs traffic cameras to enforce traffic laws. After the passage of the 2019 law, Newburgh Heights filed for a declaratory judgment and injunctive relief. Further, Newburgh Heights argued that the 2019 law violated the municipal-home-rule powers in Article XVIII, Section 3 of the Ohio Constitution.
The Home Rule Amendment:
So what is the Home Rule Amendment? Essentially, the Home Rule Amendment grants municipalities (1) sovereignty and (2) self-sufficiency. First, the Home Rule Amendment grants municipalities full power over all matters relating to the local government. Second, this Amendment to the Ohio Constitution gives municipalities the power to levy taxes and raise revenue through other means.
The Issues Presented to the Ohio Supreme Court:
The Ohio Supreme Court was tasked with answering the two following questions:
- Does the Home Rule Amendment prohibit legislation that reduces a municipality’s state funding by the revenues generated from traffic-camera citations?
- Is a municipality required to cover the costs and fees from the civil actions commenced by the traffic cameras?
Regarding the first issue, the Ohio Supreme Court held that the 2019 law does not conflict with the Home Rule Amendment. The 2019 law does not outright prohibit municipalities from using traffic cameras to regulate traffic. While the 2019 law might ultimately discourage use of traffic cameras, the Court reasons that the 2019 law “may disincentivize municipalities from adopting or continuing to use traffic cameras, but it does not forbid what municipal law permits any more than the creation of a financial incentive to adopt the use of traffic cameras would require a municipality to do what its own laws proscribe.” See Newburgh Hts. v. State, Slip Opinion No. 2022-Ohio-1642 at ¶ 30. Therefore, the 2019 law does not conflict with a municipality’s sovereignty granted by the Home Rule Amendment.
As to the second issue, the Ohio Supreme Court held that a municipality’s payment of cost and fees associated with the traffic tickets does not violate the Home Rule Amendment. As the Court reasoned, the General Assembly granted municipalities jurisdiction to litigate violations of traffic laws or city ordinances. Since private litigants must pay costs and fees associated with their litigation, municipalities must also do the same. While it may be costly for the municipalities to pay these costs and fees, this provision does not violate the Home Rule Amendment because the General Assembly is not outright directing municipalities to remove their traffic cameras. Thus, this provision does not interfere with a municipality’s self-sufficiency.
Does the Ohio Supreme Court’s decision abolish traffic cameras? Unfortunately, that answer is no. Instead, the Ohio Supreme Court’s opinion simply means that municipalities will just have to cut their losses if they want to continue to utilize traffic cameras.
However, steps are being taken by local governments to get rid of traffic cameras. For example, Columbus has completely removed traffic cameras. Cleveland has voted to remove the traffic cameras as well. On the other hand, Dayton continues to employ traffic cameras, and will for the foreseeable future. Only time will tell whether the Ohio Supreme Court’s upholding of the 2019 law will completely discourage use of traffic cameras altogether.
Our experienced Dayton traffic and criminal defense lawyers at Holzfaster, Cecil, McKnight & Mues are here for you. We can assist you with better understanding of possible defenses to any criminal action! To learn more, please go to our website at www.hcmmlaw.com or call us at 937 293-2141. We can schedule an in-person conference or one by phone or Zoom. We look forward to helping you!
PUBLISHER’S NOTE: I want to thank Mackenzie Reiber who just started externing with our firm for the Summer. Mackenzie is a second year law student at the University of Dayton School of Law. She will be graduating in May of 2023. Thanks for the great job on this blog Mackenzie!