Residents, businesses sue village over traffic cameras
Jul 24, 2013 at 9:00 AM
A lawsuit alleging that traffic cameras used to trap speeders are unconstitutional has been filed against a southwest Ohio village just months after a judge ordered similar cameras removed in another village in the state.
The lawsuit filed recently in Butler County Common Pleas Court in Hamilton against New Miami by four area residents and businesses alleges the village's camera ordinance violates the constitutional right to due process.
The lawsuit was filed against the village, about 20 miles north of Cincinnati, and New Miami police Chief Kenneth Cheek. It seeks a judgment that the ordinance is invalid and should not be enforced. The lawsuit also seeks restitution of all penalties, fees and other charges paid by those filing the suit. In addition, it seeks class-action status, which would allow others who have been ticketed from the cameras to join the lawsuit.
Dennis Adams, the village's attorney, and Cheek said Tuesday that they had not seen the lawsuit and had no immediate comment. But Cheek said the cameras have greatly reduced speeding in the village, with violations decreasing from about 250 to 400 per day to about 60 to 70 a day.
A Hamilton County judge in Cincinnati earlier this year struck down the use of traffic cameras in the village of Elmwood Place, saying their use violated due process.
The lawsuit against New Miami says the ordinance violates due process by not providing an opportunity for those who receive a ticket "to be heard at a meaningful time and in a meaningful manner" and permits a person to be held liable based on hearsay evidence. The police officer who reviews the recorded images does not have any firsthand knowledge of the violation, and the ordinance assumes that the owner of the motor vehicle was operating it at the time of the alleged violation, the lawsuit also states.
Charlie H. Rittgers, the attorney representing those filing the lawsuit, said Tuesday that motorists have no way to contest the camera's accuracy.
"There is no mechanism in the ordinance to allow citizens allegedly speeding to present a legitimate defense," he said.
He said the lawsuit is almost identical to the one in Elmwood Place, which used the same camera company.
Cheek said Tuesday that the village did not consult Elmwood Place's speed ordinance. He said previously that the cameras along U.S. 127 had recorded more than 12,000 violations since they were installed in October 2012, and fines totaling $210,000 had been collected by the end of last year, according to the Hamilton Journal News.
There have been a growing number of challenges to the use of traffic cameras for enforcement in Ohio and across the country. Ohio Supreme Court and other courts in the state have ruled in other cases that Ohio cities have been within the law in using cameras for enforcement.