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Automated Camera Rules Get Another Look in Toledo, Ohio

City officials are considering amendments to a law that the state Supreme Court ruled against earlier this year. The changes would clear the way for a traffic camera program and related citations.

Camera lens
(TNS) — Toledo officials are looking to repeal and replace a section of the city's traffic camera law that was struck down five months ago by the Ohio Supreme Court.

The state high court ruled in June that municipal courts have exclusive jurisdiction to hear cases stemming from traffic-camera citations.

That invalidated Toledo's procedure of having city-appointed hearing officers adjudicate challenges to civil red-light and speeding citations issued on the basis of images captured by automated and hand-held cameras.

A new ordinance pending before Toledo City Council would replace that administrative process with one that is in line, officials believe, with the court decision. The proposed ordinance is on the agenda for council's Nov. 17 meeting as well as that of a Public Safety and Criminal Justice Reform Committee meeting Thursday.

"This new ordinance is to reflect the court's ruling," Dale Emch, the city's law director, said.

Toledo's traffic-camera program was suspended after the Supreme Court ruling, but Safety Director Karen Poore said officials hope the cameras can resume operation by March or April under the new ordinance.

"It's given us an opportunity to really look at the program," she said.

Gretchen DeBacker, the city's legislative director, said the city's internal data persuade officials to believe the camera program is crucial to curb traffic-related accidents and speeding violations.

The court challenge was brought by Susan D. Magsig of Woodville, who was allegedly clocked traveling 75 mph by a hand-held speed camera in a 60-mph zone on westbound I-475 near ProMedica Toledo Hospital.

She had the option under the city's ordinance of paying a $120 fine or challenging the citation before a city administrative hearing officer, and she ultimately turned to the Supreme Court to directly challenge the city's authority to hold administrative hearings.

Andrew Mayle, Ms. Magsig's attorney, said the city's use of the cameras hadn't been that case's point of contention. Court cases are rife with the use of technology, including radar guns, breathalyzers, DNA, and more, he said.

"All we ever asked for is that people have their day in court," he said.

He noted that the new ordinance the city is proposing would have to be in line with not only the Supreme Court ruling but all other state laws as well.

Mr. Mayle is also the attorney on a class-action lawsuit against the city that is seeking refunds for everyone who paid fines related to Toledo's camera program after July 3, 2019, the date when amended state law mandating that such matters be heard in a municipal court took effect.

That case is still ongoing.

The city is also suing the state about a law enacted last year that restricts the use of automated traffic-enforcement cameras. That case, in which Lucas County Common Pleas Court Judge Myron Duhart has issued a preliminary injunction to block the law's enforcement, also is pending, Mr. Emch said.

©2020 The Blade, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.