Ohio Supreme Court says state's traffic camera law went too far

Posted at 9:47 AM, Jul 26, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-26 10:11:59-04

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The Ohio Supreme Court said in a 5-2 decision issued Wednesday that the 2015 state law that makes it all but impossible for local governments to use traffic cameras is unconstitutional because it conflicts with cities’ home-rule authority.

The Journal-News reports the decision affects Ohio’s 8 million licensed drivers, gives cities the green-light to start using traffic cameras again and delivers a win to municipalities that have seen an erosion of home-rule powers in other court decisions.

The ruling comes in a case filed by the city of Dayton against the state of Ohio after a new law took effect in March 2015 that curtails local authority to use traffic enforcement cameras.

Dayton challenged three elements of the law:

  • that a full-time police officer be posted at each camera in operation;
  • that cities conduct a three-year traffic study before deploying a camera;
  • that speeders be given “leeway” -- 6 miles per hour over in a school zone and 10 mph over elsewhere -- before issuing tickets.

The city of Dayton challenged the law, saying it violates the Home Rule provision of the state constitution, which grants municipalities the right to self-govern. Springfield, Akron, East Cleveland, Toledo and the Ohio Municipal League weighed in with briefs supporting Dayton’s argument. The Municipal League represents 700 cities and villages.

In oral arguments held in January before the high court, Dayton said that the General Assembly specifically wrote the law to block local jurisdictions from using the cameras. Dayton had more than 36 cameras operating when the law took effect.

The state argued that municipalities could still use cameras to issue citations as long as they followed the law and local ordinances didn’t conflict with the state statute. The state said the law provides a statewide framework on the use of traffic cameras.

Meanwhile, Dayton city officials approved a plan to bring back cameras to catch speeding and red light violations. The city plans to use 10 fixed camera systems, six hand-held devices and two portable trailer units. Officers will be present when any of these devices are in operation and documenting traffic violations.