2/9/2017Ohio Town Ordered To Repay Every Speed Camera Ticket Issued
Court orders New Miami, Ohio to repay every cent collected from motorists from unconstitutional speed camera program.
New Miami, Ohio broke the law, it was caught, and now it will have to repay $3,066,523 worth of tickets. That was the judgment rendered Wednesday by Butler County Court of Common Pleas Judge Michael A. Oster Jr.
"If the government has created an unconstitutional law/ordinance that has taken people's money without affording them the necessary due process protections, should not justice demand, and the law require, restitution of that money to the people?" Oster asked at the opening of his ruling. "Once the complexities of the law are analyzed, the answer is simple: Yes."
A group of three lawyers had filed suit in 2013, arguing that New Miami's automated ticketing ordinance gave vehicle owners no realistic opportunity to defend themselves against the demand for a payment of up to $180 that arrived in the mail. Optotraffic, a private vendor, sent the tickets to motorists passing through the less-than-one-square-mile town on US 127, a major highway that links Cincinnati with points north.
The state's second highest court (view ruling) approved the class action lawsuit against New Miami last year, and the Ohio Supreme Court chose not to intervene. Judge Oster already ruled the program violated the law (view ruling), so all that remained for him to decide Wednesday was how much New Miami would pay in restitution for the village's unjust enrichment.
New Miami's lawyers insisted that sovereign immunity protected the village against such claims for monetary damages. The court disagreed, citing well-established precedent finding immunity does not apply to unconstitutional actions.
"Ohio law is clear that the reimbursement of monies collected pursuant to an unconstitutional enactment or invalid rule is equitable relief, not monetary damages, and is consequently not barred by sovereign immunity," Judge Oster concluded. "No later than thirty days after the filing of this order, plaintiff is to file with the court and affidavit evincing monies paid under the invalidated ordinance, along with an Excel spreadsheet, so that the court can set the proper amount of restitution/refund as determined under the laws of equity."
Lawyers previously had calculated $3,066,523 in tickets were issued. A copy of Wednesday's ruling is available in a PDF file at the source link below.