Springfield red light cameras to stay off until lower court ruling

The Ohio Supreme Court sent Springfield’s lawsuit challenging a new red light camera law back to a Clark County court on Wednesday, saying it should take into account a ruling earlier this year declaring parts of the law unconstitutional.

Springfield had used red light cameras for nearly a decade — the city issued about 77,000 citations between 2006 and 2015, collecting about $3.4 million in fines — when it shut them off in 2015 because a new state law required a police officer to be present to issue a ticket.

MORE: Red light cameras staying off in Springfield — for now

Under that law, officials in Springfield estimated they would have had to hire at least 42 new officers to run its program.

That regulation led to multiple lawsuits from cities across Ohio, including the city of Springfield.

The Clark County Common Pleas Court should use a ruling the supreme court issued earlier this year in a case filed by Dayton.

“We are going to start all over again after three years and have the courts look at what the state can limit,” Springfield Law Director Jerry Storzdas said.

Judge Douglas Ratsatter will hear the case again, likely next year. Until then, the city won’t turn its traffic cameras back on, Strozdas said.

In the Dayton case, the court declared parts of the law restricting red light cameras unconstitutional, saying it hampered cities’ home-rule authority, which allows municipalities to pass laws to govern themselves.

PREVIOUSLY: Bill would likely end red light cameras

Dayton challenged three parts of the state’s law. That included language that a police officer be posted at each operating camera, that cities conduct a three-year traffic study before deploying a camera and that speeders be given leeway of 6 miles per hour over the limit in a school zone and 10 miles over elsewhere.

Springfield didn’t use speed cameras, only red light cameras

Justice Pat DeWine wrote in a dissenting opinion that the ruling Wednesday doesn’t address the main issues Springfield argued in its case and it’s not clear enough for lower court judges to make their decision.

"It is difficult how Dayton …. could provide any valuable direction to a lower court forced to reconsider holdings it had already made about statutes Dayton never addressed," DeWine says in his dissenting opinion.

Clark County courts still won’t know what the law is or how they should apply the law to the case, DeWine says.
“The trial court is directed to address the rest of Springfield’s constitutional challenge, but this court has given the trial court no tools to apply when revisiting the issues it has already decided. The trial court is in no better position now than when it first heard the case to determine the constitutionality of the provisions that were not addressed by this court in Dayton,” DeWine says in his opinion. 
The red light cameras have been controversial with state lawmakers calling them a money grab and many residents wanting them taken down.

But Springfield resident Jennifer Grelewicz said too many drivers don’t pay attention and the red light cameras had a positive effect in the community.

READ: Springfield appeals red light camera ruling

“They were great, they were a lot safer,” she said. “People that run the lights can cause accidents and it helps catch the people who are running lights.”

When the cameras were taken down, she said, people started getting in a rush again. She hopes local leaders decide to restart the cameras.

“It really is going to be a lot safer and maybe people will start paying more attention,” Grelewicz said.

By the numbers

77,000: citations written between 2006 and 2015 from red light cameras in Springfield.

$3.4 million: Fines from red light cameras in Springfield.

17: Red light cameras in Springfield.

Staying with the story

The Springfield News-Sun has published several stories about the red light cameras, including stories digging into the money they generated and what effect they had on crashes.

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