Policing For Profit Approved By Ohio Supreme Court
If you were hoping that the Ohio Supreme Court would curtail a city’s ability to implement policing for profit, you would be disappointed. Last week, in Walker v. Toledo, Slip Opinion No. 2014-Ohio-5461, a divided Supreme Court ruled that cities in Ohio have complete freedom to set up tribunals that do away with due process protections for motorists accused by a machine.
The majority opinion, written by Justice Kennedy held specifically that,
Municipalities have home-rule authority under Ohio Constitution, Article XVIII,to impose civil liability on traffic violators through an administrativeenforcement system—Ohio Constitution, Article IV, Section 1 and R.C.1901.20 do not endow municipal courts with exclusive authority overtraffic-ordinance violations—Municipalities have home-rule authority toestablish administrative proceedings, including administrative hearings,in furtherance of traffic ordinances, that must be exhausted beforeoffenders or the municipality can pursue judicial remedies.
Without permission from the General Assembly, in 2008 Toledo allowed Redflex Traffic Systems of Australia to set up shop and issue $120 traffic tickets in the city’s name (what we call policing for profit). Vehicle owners could only contest these fines by attending an administrative hearing set up by Toledo. Bradley Walker filed a challenge to his citation on the grounds that the state constitution gives only the legislature the power to set up judicial bodies.
The high court majority did not buy that reasoning and instead agreed with Redflex that cities set up quasi-judicial taxicab review boards without statutory authority, so automated ticketing tribunals should be allowed as well. The court majority insisted the 2008 Mendenhall v. Akron case allowing cities to set up camera programs on their own authority includes permission to set up judicial panels (view decision).
“The reality of municipal civil enforcement of ordinances does not involve regulating the jurisdiction of courts,” Justice Sharon L. Kennedy wrote for the majority. “As we made clear in Mendenhall, civil enforcement of municipal ordinances complements the work of the courts. It does not restrict it… We agree with Redflex’s proposition that municipalities have home-rule authority to establish presuit civil administrative proceedings, including administrative hearings, on civil liability for traffic-law violations.”
The three dissenting justices countered that it is absurd to say that a city council has the power to restrict the jurisdiction of the municipal court by taking away the right to hear traffic camera cases and hand it to a hearing officer. Under state law, the municipal court has jurisdiction over “any ordinance” within its territory, except parking tickets. The dissenting justices accused their colleagues of playing word games.
“It is evident under this statute that the General Assembly has vested the municipal court with jurisdiction over the violation of any ordinance generally and any misdemeanor specifically, other than parking violations,” Justice William M. O’Neill. “The term ‘any ordinance’ does not need interpreting. It is clear on its face. Other than the specifically mentioned parking violation ordinances, ‘any ordinance’ covers ‘any ordinance,’ which includes Toledo Municipal Code 313.12. This is the only logical interpretation of this statute.”
This is a significant policing for profit decision, because a bill effectively banning red-light and speed cameras sits on Gov. Kasich’s desk for approval. If vetoed, it looks like Ohio red-light and speed cameras will be here to stay for a long, long time despite the will of the people.
Charles M. Rowland II dedicates his practice to defending the accused drunk driver in the Miami Valley and throughout Ohio. He has the credentials and the experience to win your case and has made himself Dayton’s choice for drunk driving defense. Contact Charles Rowland by phone at (937) 318-1384 or toll-free at 1-888-ROWLAND (888-769-5263). If you need assistance after hours, call the 24/7 DUI Hotline at (937) 776-2671. You can have DaytonDUI at your fingertips by downloading the DaytonDUI Android App or have DaytonDUI sent directly to your mobile device by texting DaytonDUI (one word) to 50500. Follow DaytonDUI on Facebook, @DaytonDUI on Twitter, YouTube, Tumblr, Pheed and Pintrest or get RSS of the Ohio DUI blog. You can email CharlesRowland@DaytonDUI.com or visit his office at 2190 Gateway Dr., Fairborn, Ohio 45324.
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For more info on policing for profit, check these city-specific sites at the following links: