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Court case could spell the end of traffic-enforcement cameras

Court case could spell the end of traffic-enforcement cameras

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WTVN) -- In a filing with the Ohio Supreme Court, a group of lawmakers and the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law argues that automated traffic cameras in Toledo violate the Ohio Constitution. It's a case that could have far-reaching impacts.

"If we win, traffic cameras will be impossible to run in Ohio," said Maurice Thompson with the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law.

Ohio Supreme Court is hearing the case of Walker v. City of Toledo. It was brought by a person who was cited by the cameras and feels their rights were violated.

The issue is how the citations are handled. Thompson says Toledo, Cleveland and Columbus all use administrative hearing officers for the cases instead of judges

"The issue before the Ohio Supreme Court now is does a judge have to hear these things and it looks to us like the Ohio Constitution says yes, absolutely," Thompson said.

Joining the 1851 Center on the Brief are 21 State Representatives and eight State Senators.

Thompson says that Toledo, like other Ohio cities, cannot create judicial power through local ordinances. He also believes the cameras violate the right to due process and judicial oversight.

"To have a fair hearing you have to be able to put on a defense and how can you put on a defense for a citation you received a month ago when you didn't even know you were being cited at the time," he said. "At the end of the day, Due Process means that you get to see a judge before government takes your money or your car."

He adds that Ohio's local governments are essentially selling to private corporations the right to fine their citizens and take their vehicles.

"We believe that it's time to end this practice."

There is a bill at the Statehouse to outlaw the cameras. The Ohio House approved it, but it is still pending in the Ohio Senate. Thompson isn't confident it will move very quickly there.

The municipalities maintain that constitutional "home rule" authority lends them the power to create judicial authorities such as the hearing officers. However, Thompson says the Ohio Supreme Court has rejected such a claim four times between 1925 and 1959, stating that only the General Assembly can create additional judicial officers, and violations of city ordinances must be handled in municipal courts.

Thompson hopes that the Ohio Supreme Court will hear oral arguments this summer and make a ruling by the end of the year.

 

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