1/31/2008Ohio Supreme Court Saves Speed Cameras
Text of an Ohio Supreme Court ruling granting cities the authority to install speed and red light cameras without legislative authorization.
The Ohio Supreme Court today issued a ruling upholding the right of municipalities to create new "civil penalties" for crimes already covered by criminal statutes. The long-awaited ruling gives the green light for Ohio cities to expand speed camera and red light camera camera programs, an authority which the state legislature had specifically declined to grant.
"Home rule jurisprudence has become confused over the years because different theories have been used to determine when an ordinance is in conflict with a general state law," Justice Judith Ann Lanzinger wrote for the court.
The high court reasoned that even though a state law punishes only the driver of a vehicle, this is not in conflict with the city ordinance that punishes vehicle owners, even innocent ones, because "the actual conduct prohibited -- exceeding speed limits -- is the same." The court even allowed for the use of such an ordinance for the sole purpose of generating millions to help reduce a budget deficit.
"Much has been made of the motivation behind the city's decision to adopt an ordinance of this type," the Lanzinger wrote. "There is disagreement among the parties as to whether the city's decision was motivated by concerns over safety or by a desire to increase revenue. Motivation does not play any role in home rule analysis however, and a city has the right to enact 'such local police, sanitary and other similar regulations, as are not in conflict with general laws.'"
The court acknowledged due process concerns with photo enforcement but declined to consider them. Today's decision is contrary to the finding of Minnesota's highest court which ruled photo enforcement a violation of the state constitution based upon its reading of a statutes essentially identical to those considered by Ohio.
The full text of the decision is available in a 75k PDF file at the source link below.