CLEVELAND – The FOX 8 I TEAM is investigating what a new court ruling means to you in towns using those traffic cameras so many drivers love to hate.
In short, a ruling by the Ohio Supreme Court makes it easier for cities to use those cameras and send out tickets to drivers caught running red lights or speeding.
The court struck down some rules created by state lawmakers that made it harder for cities to use the cameras. Now, no officer needs to be present and sitting there at the camera. No traffic study needs to be done in the area. And, there are no more limits for setting speeds that trigger tickets from the cameras.
The court ruling, in effect, said the state’s rules had interfered with the rights of cities to create their own rules.
The I TEAM took hard questions to local towns using the cameras. For instance, the I TEAM has shown you, time and again, East Cleveland giving out camera tickets even without an officer present, even as the state accused East Cleveland of ignoring rules for camera tickets. At East Cleveland City Hall, we found the Mayor and Law Director high-fiving over the ruling.
Mayor Brandon King said he believes the cameras help with safety although many drivers call them city moneymakers. King reacted to the ruling saying, “This is a relief. A relief for residents who understand the need for safety.”
The I TEAM asked if this means East Cleveland will put up more cameras, and King said, “No. not without just cause.”
Drivers we met reacted by talking about the traffic camera tickets, saying, “I’ve done had about 3 or 4 of ’em in this area of East Cleveland.” And, “Just taking money out of the pockets.”
In Newburgh Heights, Police Chief John Majoy said he didn’t expect much to change there.
In Linndale, Police Chief Tim Franczak said he hopes the new ruling will help free up officers for other police work in his town. Officers sometimes sit in a shack near a traffic camera there. Franczak also argues the cameras have safety benefits.
The ruling was 5-2 in support of the city of Dayton’s challenge of provisions in a state law that took effect in 2015. The city said it improperly limited local control and undercut camera enforcement that makes cities safer by reducing red-light running and speeding. Dayton and other cities including Toledo and Springfield said the law’s restrictions made traffic cameras cost-prohibitive.
A majority opinion written by Justice Patrick Fischer found those three restrictions “unconstitutionally (limit) the municipality’s home-rule authority without serving an overriding state interest.”
The state’s highest court has twice previously ruled for cities on cameras.
Justice Patrick DeWine wrote a dissenting opinion, saying the legislation was “a compromise” meant to deal with concerns that cameras were being misused to generate revenue while allowing municipalities “some opportunity” to employ cameras.
“Today’s decision has the unfortunate impact of further muddling a body of law that is already hopelessly confused,” DeWine wrote. Justice William O’Neill also dissented.
The state had contended that the law was within the legislature’s powers as a “statewide and comprehensive” way to regulate enforcement of traffic. Supporters said officers were needed to detect camera malfunctions and situations that clearly call for an exemption from ticketing.
Dayton police, whose use of traffic cameras goes back nearly 15 years, had resumed this year using officer-manned fixed cameras at certain sites, saying traffic crashes had shot up after camera enforcement halted. Dayton is also among cities that have equipped some officers with new hand-held cameras to record violations.
Attorney General’s spokesman Dan Tierney said Wednesday the case couldn’t be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court because it involved a solely state law.