Are Elmwood Place robo-tickets legal?

CINCINNATI - The number of citations from Elmwood Place's automated speed cameras continue to mount.

Former resident Michael Kear just got his in the mail.
"It's not right," Kear said. "I didn't know what it was."

But are the cameras and the $105 citations legal?

The village says they aren't really tickets. They're called Notices of Liability.

But officials are surely aware of what these notices have stirred up. There's a sign at town hall that reads "we cannot help you" and directs those with complaints to take them to the police department. A sign at the police department reads "STOP" and instructs those nabbed by the Automated Speed Enforcement Program that neither police or village staff can schedule court hearings or accept payments in person.

"There are no exceptions to this policy," the sign reads. Then it gives a toll free phone number.

The notices include pictures of the violating vehicle, the vehicle's license plate, the time of the offense, the location of the incident and the clocked speed of the car. The notice is sent to the registered owner of the vehicle, not necessarily the driver of the car at the time of the offense.

"It's clearly not something a person could get points (against their driver's license) for or change your insurance rates," attorney Mark Krumbein said. "This is a civil action."

That means the village can come after you for the money, and possibly garnish your wages, and affect your credit if you don't pay, Krumbein said.

"The basic system is permitted by law in Ohio," he said.

Despite that, Krumbein says he sees several court challenges to the way the village is operating the system.

First, are the machines reliable?

"Are they calibrated?" Krumbein asks. "Who maintains them? Is it set up properly? When was it tested last?"

There is some possibly damning evidence on that front; the notices cite the location of the violations as being in Elmwood Place, Md., not Ohio.

Another issue could arise from the fact one of the machines is located on the front yard of 12 Township Avenue, which is private property.

Both the police chief and Optotraffic – the company that owns the machine – admit they did not ask for permission to place it there.

"You cannot go on someone's property unless you have their permission, even if you're a police officer," Krumbein said.

The next issue is that these machines are not being marked.

"That's not fair," Krumbein said. "Because in Ohio, it supposed to be marked and in plain sight."

Some neighbors are certainly happy to see something being done to curb village speeders.

But if even a fraction of the drivers who have received a notice in the mail are thinking like Kear, who said, "I'm going to fight it," Elmwood Place could be in for more headaches than it bargained for.

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