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Federal Lawsuit Challenges Interstate Speed Camera Trap In Ohio
Federal class action seeks to force Girard, Ohio to refund speed camera tickets issued in a work zone a month after work had ceased.

Marc E. Dann
Motorists in Girard, Ohio are turning to the federal courts to force the town to pay back fines collected for speed camera tickets that were, they argue, illegally issued. According to the class action suit filed on Friday, automated tickets were being issued in a "work zone" on Interstate 80 even though the work had been completed a full month earlier.

Between December 7, 2017 and January 7, 2018, the site in question was officially a "non-construction zone" where the speed limit should have been 65 MPH. A 55 MPH speed limit sign was left in place in place after the construction completed. When the problem was revealed in local media stories, Girard Mayor Jim Melfi refused to refund the fines issued in the improper speed zone.

"Those tickets are valid and my advice to whoever got one is that they should slow down and pay it," Melfi told WJW-TV last month.

The tickets arrived in the mail from Blue Line Solutions, Girard's private contractor, demanding payment of between $104 and $179. The town provided no leeway, as the suit includes motorists who were ticketed for allegedly traveling just 60 MPH in the 65 MPH zone. None of the lawsuit's plaintiffs sought an administrative hearing because they believed the process in such hearings is rigged. A bill before the state Senate would eliminate such hearings and force photo ticket cases to be heard in municipal court (see bill).

The motorists are being represented by Marc E. Dann, the former Ohio attorney general.

"The city of Girard has an unconstitutional policy, practice, and custom of using an automatic traffic enforcement system calibrated for an improper speed to issue tickets to impose civil penalties," Dann wrote in the complaint. "The collection of the revenue from these tickets when no speed ordinance was in place violates Article IV, Section 1 of the Ohio constitution and therefore is invalid and unenforceable."

The suit asks for a full refund of all the fines collected while the speed limit sign was improperly posted. The case has been assigned to Judge Benita Y. Pearson.

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