CINCINNATI (AP) - The city of Dayton on Tuesday became the latest front in the legal assault on traffic cameras in Ohio.
Attorneys for eight drivers filed a lawsuit in Montgomery County against the city. Among the attorneys are some who successfully argued for court rulings stopping camera use in the southwest Ohio villages of New Miami and Elmwood Place.
The new lawsuit raises the same issues as earlier cases, charging that the automated traffic enforcement systems are an unconstitutional violation of due process rights and that they improperly bypass the courts.
Ghassan Deek, a University of Dayton law school student and a plaintiff, said he was surprised last year to get a mailed citation for speeding because of a traffic camera.
“I didn’t even know they existed,” Deek said. “I got ticketed by a machine.”
He didn’t believe he had been speeding and said it was possible someone else had borrowed his car. But because he was busy with school, he decided not to contest the ticket because “the burden of proof” was on him. Under Dayton’s system, ticketed motorists must pay the $85 fine first before they can appeal to an administrative hearing officer.
Dayton has used cameras for red-light enforcement for a decade, and added speeding cameras in 2011. Attorney Josh Engel said records show Dayton cameras generated more than $6 million in revenue over the last two years, with the company that operates the cameras keeping a third of the revenues.
Dayton spokesman Bryan Taulbee said Tuesday that the city didn’t have a comment immediately on the pending litigation. The city’s website says accidents from running red lights have declined a third with cameras, adding: “The success of photo enforcement technology to enhance public safety is undeniable.”
Supporters say traffic cameras stretch police resources and make communities safer. Most of Ohio’s largest cities use them, and the state Supreme Court upheld camera enforcement in the city of Akron in a 2008 case.
Critics say they are mainly meant to raise revenues, and there has been a recent string of rulings going against cameras in Ohio on lawsuits saying they don’t give motorists a fair chance to challenge evidence, confront accusers, and to get their day in court.
Dayton is among several Ohio cities that are part of legal briefs supporting cameras in a case pending this year before the Ohio Supreme Court on a lawsuit challenging cameras in the city of Toledo.
Ohio legislators are also pushing a bill to ban or at least add restrictions on camera use statewide.
“It should be clear to anyone that we’re seeing the dying days of these automated traffic enforcement devices, and in a broader sense, of policing for profit,” said attorney Mike Allen, whose firm is part of the Dayton lawsuit after suing for motorists against Elmwood Place and New Miami. A Hamilton County judge who ordered Elmwood Place’s cameras stopped last year compared them to a con man’s card game.
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