Girard, Ohio is using cameras to enforce speed laws on State Route 422. Thursday, Trumbull County Common Pleas Court Judge John Stuard ruled against the city in a class-action lawsuit on behalf of 1,500 drivers. He based his ruling on the idea that the speed violations are handled by the city as a civil complaint, not criminal, which decriminalizes conduct that the state has said is criminal. It sounds confusing, but what he’s saying is that a city can’t make something legal that the state has made illegal. The state of Ohio has a system for dealing with speed offenses, in Â§ 4511.21 of the Ohio Revised Code. The ORC sets down certain penalties for speed offenses, including a points system where multiple speed violations can result in the loss of of your driving privileges.
Where I think this will get interesting is how it will apply to red-light cameras. Â§ 4511.12 of the ORC covers traffic control devices, and the penalties associated with them. I think Ohio cities that are using cameras to catch red-light offenders (those who run red lights) are going to run into the same problem. Most cities treat such offenses as civil offenses, which lowers the burden of proof. The city doesn’t have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you were operating your car. They only have to show that it was driven through a red light.
The Akron B-J article points out that the Girard case is a bit similar to a case in Akron, although a federal judge ruled opposite Judge Stuard. U.S. District Judge David Dowd Jr. felt that Ohio’s home-rule provisions allowed such action. Several cities in the state have red-light cameras, and the state Legislature was examining the topic. It should be interesting to see how this ruling affects the legislation and the overall use of cameras.
My main complaint about the cameras is that part of the civil fine goes to the company. I’d have less of an issue if the entire fine went to the city, I think. It just feels like the cities are out-sourcing law enforcement duties. It’s in the financial interests of the companies involved to have as many citations issued as possible, since that’s how they make their money. The city isn’t in the law-enforcement “business” to make money, but rather to protect the public. It feels like a conflict of interest, which many camera opponents have been saying for a while now.
Time will tell.