Supreme Court of Ohio strikes down City of Toledo's traffic camera appeals process

Published: Jun. 24, 2020 at 7:22 PM EDT
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You may have gone through it before: You ran a red light or got caught speeding on the freeway and had to go through the city of Toledo's administrative hearing. On Wednesday, however, the Supreme Court of Ohio made a ruling that will impact how those appeals are processed -- and could put the red-light program in jeopardy.

"The decision just came out from the Supreme Court today," says Judge William Connelly at the Toledo Municipal Court, "saying directly that the City of Toledo can no longer conduct administrative appeals if someone is issued a civil citation for speeding or red-light violations conducted on cameras posted around the City of Toledo. This will now put the appellate process to challenge the underlying ticket itself, squarely within Toledo Municipal Court."

The change comes after Woodville resident Susan Magsig was cited for driving 75 mph in a 60 mph zone on I-475 last August. She did not dispute the citation, but rather the process itself. The Supreme Court had enacted a new law just one month before, granting exclusive authority to municipal courts on these types of non-criminal traffic violations.

The court made the unanimous decision Wednesday in favor of Magsig, stating that she "contends that the hearing officer patently and unambiguously lacks jurisdiction. We agree and conclude that Toledo’s patent and unambiguous lack of jurisdiction to carry out its red-light and speeding-camera civil-enforcement system is clear on the face of [the 2019 law]."

Back in 2014, the court had ruled Toledo's administrative hearings to fall within constitutional bounds (

) -- though with 2019's amendment now granting that exclusive authority to municipal courts, the shift is effective immediately.

When we reached out to the city for comment, law director Dale Emch said that cameras are still rolling across Toledo, even if the appeals process looks different:

"The city will discontinue its administrative hearing process for traffic camera violations in light of the Supreme Court’s ruling. The Court ruled that these tickets need to be handled in the Municipal Court following the change in state law last year. This does not prevent the city from operating a traffic camera program, and we will continue to litigate the state’s infringement on our Home Rule authority. The automated traffic enforcement cameras help make our streets safer for all drivers. We continue to believe that they help slow down speeders and reduce the number of people who run red lights. Lives can literally be saved."

At the moment, there is no clear picture of how this transition of power will be implemented -- nor what to do if you want to dispute that $120 fine.

"We will have to put into place a process," says Judge Connelly, "by which someone who is issued a citation for speeding, or red-light violation, can appeal that and be heard by a judicial official... exactly what that process will be, and when that will be set up, I can't answer right now."

For now, the red-light program will continue to generate revenue for the city -- over $7 million annually, on average -- though other responsibilities like court filing fees being shifted back onto the city may now give less of a financial incentive.

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