Ohio’s Red-Light Camera Restrictions Blocked by Toledo Judge

Columbus and Dayton both turned their traffic cameras off at 11:59 p.m. Sunday, but Dayton announced Monday it would resume issuing camera citations because of the Toledo decision.

By Jim Provance and Ignazio Messina

With Toledo successfully tapping the brakes on a controversial state law imposing heavy restrictions on red-light and speed cameras, other cities are closely watching what will happen in a legal battle playing out in Lucas County Common Pleas Court.

The cities of Columbus and Dayton both turned their cameras off at 11:59 p.m. Sunday, but Dayton announced Monday it would resume issuing camera citations because of the Toledo decision. Columbus said it will also review the ruling that granted Toledo's request for a preliminary injunction on the law.

Judge Dean Mandros' order Sunday allowed Toledo to keep issuing citations from red light cameras without the significant restrictions imposed by the state law that took effect Monday pending a legal outcome.

The state law, among other things, requires a police officer be present at camera locations to witness violations before civil citations could be issued. Opponents claim cities can't afford to keep police officers at camera locations, and that the law amounts to an unconstitutional ban.

Dayton spokesman Toni Bankston said city leaders and the city attorney discussed whether Judge Mandros' stay could apply there as well.

"After careful consideration, city legal counsel determined that the injunction applies statewide. The cameras will be put back in service immediately," the city said in a statement.

In Columbus, the city attorney is reviewing the case to see if it's applicable in Franklin County, said George Speaks, that city's public safety director.

"If the decision from Lucas County is applicable throughout the state, it's as if the law never took effect and the cameras could be turned back on," he said.

In addition to Toledo and Columbus, the cities of Dayton, Akron, Springfield, and East Cleveland have filed separate lawsuits on home-rule grounds in their respective counties.

The city of Toledo and the state were both were expected to file motions urging Judge Mandros to make a final ruling in their favor.

"We are filing a motion for summary judgment on the merits," said Toledo Law Director Adam Loukx.

A hearing date was not yet scheduled.

"The Toledo case is the only one to proceed to the point where an order has been issued," said Dan Tierney, spokesman for Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, who is defending the law. "The city of Toledo is the only jurisdiction where a court order has affected implementation of the law."

Toledo filed its lawsuit earlier this month challenging the constitutionality of Ohio restrictions. The lawsuit argues the new traffic-camera law Gov. John Kasich signed in December violates the city's home-rule powers under the Ohio Constitution.

Judge Mandros, who heard arguments Friday from both sides during a morning hearing, has not yet ruled on the constitutionality of the law. Toledo has 44 cameras at 28 locations, plus one mobile speed unit that is used in school zones.

State Sen. Bill Seitz (R., Cincinnati), primary sponsor of the traffic-camera legislation, said he had "little doubt the ruling would be appealed and littler doubt that Toledo would end up being the loser." Mr. Seitz said Toledo "misled" the Lucas County judge.

Toledo Mayor Paula Hicks-Hudson said she was pleased that the city was given a reprieve.

"The court has given us an opportunity to provide our total position with this case," Mayor Hicks-Hudson said. "I respectfully disagree with the senator's position."

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