Fed up Motorists are Suing Cities over Taxation by Citation Schemes

Ohio has a problem. The legislature has, for years, been trying to rid the state of automated traffic enforcement, but due to the strong home rule laws, cities have been defiant. Inevitably, ATE cases end up in court because guess who else does not like red-light and speed cameras—motorists. And they are sick and tired of having their constitutional rights abused over and over again. Two recent Ohio court cases plus cases from Florida, Illinois, and Iowa illustrate my point.

In a unanimous decision handed down in late June, the Ohio Supreme Court recently ordered the city of Toledo to stop using administrative hearings in speed camera cases. Motorist Susan Magsig challenged her ticket, fighting for her right to due process. Under state law, such hearings can only be held by a municipal court judge and not an administrator. After the ruling came down, Toledo suspended its red-light and speed camera program until further notice.

In another case heard earlier in the month, the city of Girard and for-profit ATE company Blue Line Solutions appealed a lower court ruling that allows a case to become a class-action suit.

The case focused on one month (December 7, 2017 to January 7, 2018) when the city lowered a speed limit to 55 mph in an already completed construction zone on a stretch of I-80. The case began when motorist John Perfette paid his automated speed ticket issued the day before the incorrect speed limit sign came down. After Perfette saw in the news that the speed limit had been improperly posted, he asked that his case be reopened. The city refused.

The suit seeks refunds for anyone who received a ticket (ranging from $104 to $179) in that one month. Blue Line Solutions has fought not only the class-action status but also insists that anyone who received a ticket traveling 75 mph should not be entitled to the suit since they were still speeding 10 mph over the actual speed limit of 65 mph.

The Trumbull County 11th District Court of Appeals allowed the case class-action status in April. The court wrote that the company’s claim was premature and charged the company all costs for the appeal. The ruling has not yet come down from the Ohio Supreme Court. We’ll keep you posted.

Here are three other court cases that caught our eye:

Miami-Dade County, Florida: A state Appellate Court intervened to rescue red-light cameras in the city of Aventura. A Miami-Dade County judge had blasted for-profit camera contractors for creating a hodge-podge of ordinances in different cities of the county. State law requires uniform traffic laws throughout the state, but apparently, this same set of standards does not apply to the use of RLCs.

Motorist Lee Stein challenged the hodge-podge because since the rules differ from city to city, the motorist conduct in receiving a ticket in Aventura would not be the same in the 15 other jurisdictions. In Aventura, for example, you will receive an RLC ticket when you make a right turn on red at 15 mph. Key Biscayne is 25 mph, and West Miami is only 10 mph.

Stein’s attorney said he plans to ask the three-judge panel to reconsider its opinion and for the full appellate court to review the matter before heading to the state Supreme Court. RLC tickets had been in legal limbo since 2018 whenever the county judge first handed down his ruling on no uniformity of the traffic law.

Chicago: Yet another class action may now go forward. Cook County Circuit Judge David Atkins rejected the city’s push to dismiss the lawsuit for hundreds of thousands of people who have received RLC tickets from 2003-2010. Similar to another class action settled in 2019, this lawsuit accuses the city of violating its ordinance by which RLC tickets are administered. Both lawsuits accused the city that it failed to send a second notice to car owners who were mailed tickets under the city’s ATE program. The city had to pay over $35 million to plaintiffs in the first suit.

Cedar Rapids, Iowa: Small refunds will be sent to motorists who were sent speed camera tickets after a ruling by Linn County District Judge Ian Thornhill. He accepted the terms that the city had voluntarily worked out with the plaintiffs to pay back just over $1.2 million. The case involves the city hiring a collections company to go after ticket holders who had not paid their speed camera tickets after a year of issuance. The city had wanted to make $17 million under the taxation by citation scheme and ended up only making $3 million. Local radio show host Simon Conway fought for a refund for 36,452 ticket holders. 

Here are 10 other Ticket Cam Alert headlines that might be of interest:

NMA Resources to fight against Ticket Cams and other Street and In-Car Surveillance

NMA Issue Pages:

Check out the NMA Facebook Page called the Ticket Cam Alert USA.

We are currently building a closed Facebook Group called the Ticket Cam Alert USA Discussion Group for local and state activists to have a space to discuss best practices and ask questions.

Also, here are some NMA blog posts that might be of interest!

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