Running Over the Constitution

A $40,000 Speeding Ticket

By AJ Wagner

It was eighty-three years ago next week that the Saturday Evening Post took on the issue of speed traps with the Norman Rockwell cover illustration “Welcome to Elmville.” The illustration, which appeared a few months ago at the Dayton Art Institute, depicts a small town policeman hiding behind a sign, stopwatch in hand, awaiting the next victim of his trap. The cover came as a result of conversation in 1929 America about the appropriate use of speeding fines to raise revenues in small towns and cities.

Enter Dayton, 2012 and the discussion continues. Here is a list of electronic cameras ready to take a picture of your car in action on Dayton’s streets if you run a red light or exceed the speed limit.

Smithville Road at Patterson Road:  Red Light Enforced
Smithville Road near Fourth: Speed Enforced
Smithville Road near Marimont: Speed Enforced
Third Street at Edwin C. Moses Boulevard:  Red Light Enforced
Third Street at James H. McGee Boulevard: Red Light Enforced
West Third Street near Hatfield :  Speed Enforced
East Third Street near Clinton: Speed Enforced
Troy Street at Stanley Avenue: Red Light Enforced
Stanley Avenue at Valley Street: Red Light Enforced
Stanley Avenue near Kuntz: Speed Enforced
South Keowee Street near Fourth: Speed Enforced
North Keowee Street near Stanley: Speed Enforced
Gettysburg Avenue at Cornell Drive: Red Light and Speed Enforced
North Gettysburg Avenue near Fairbanks:  Speed Enforced
Main Street at Hillcrest Avenue: Red Light Enforced
US 35 at Abbey Avenue: Red Light and Speed Enforced
Salem Avenue at North Avenue: Red Light Enforced
Salem Avenue at Hillcrest Avenue:  Red Light Enforced
Salem Avenue near Otterbein: Speed Enforced

In the first seventeen days after the first four of the speeding cameras had been installed more than 3,500 drivers had been spotted exceeding the limit. At $85 a pop, the City could net an estimated two million dollars each year from of these cameras.

The City Manager has said it’s not about the money, it’s about safety. The cameras have been placed in high accident areas with two cameras at each location, one covering each direction of travel. There are warning signs in place, and although that seems like a reasonable practice, many cities with cameras report an increase in rear end collisions around the cameras while reporting an overall decrease in accidents.

Once caught, a letter is mailed to the vehicle owner.  Violators are given 15 days to appeal, but never see a judge or a courtroom. About the only way to win an appeal is to provide an affidavit from the owner identifying another driver as the real violator. This is not a criminal action, but a civil action with the owner presumed to be guilty. The $85 charge is not a fine but a civil penalty. If the owner fails to pay the penalty within 15 days, a late fee of $25 is added to the toll. If there are two or more citations for a car the City has started to tow the car wherever it is found.

In my opinion the City is violating more laws than the car owners.

Running a red light and speeding are crimes. If someone commits a crime the Constitution requires they be presumed innocent. A criminal is entitled to confront those who accuse him or her of the crime. There is a right to trial in a court where witnesses can be called and the calibration and effectiveness of sensors, radar, and machinery can be challenged. Dayton plays a game by calling the camera violation a civil offense for the sole purpose of denying its citizens these important constitutional rights.

Additionally, the collection of civil penalties is regulated by state and federal law, which the City of Dayton ignores. Under Ohio law, an automobile is not subject to collection if it is valued at $3,500 or less. If a violator is found guilty of speeding in a court, there is a maximum fine of $150 plus court costs. Under the camera program Dayton can charge up to $250 and may collect a $40,000 vehicle as well without a court hearing.

This past week a 91-year old man went to the Dayton Municipal Courts Building to pay his camera violation. When he came back out, his car was being hooked up to a tow truck. He argued that he had paid the penalties but got no sympathy. His car was towed adding to his expenses and leaving the elderly man without a way home.

My friends at Dyer, Garofalo, Mann and Schultz are preparing a suit against the city. If you’re car has been towed call them at 223-8888 to join the suit.

As my dad said, “Two wrongs don’t make a right.” Speeders are wrong, but so is a city that ignores the constitutional rights of its citizens.

Disclaimer: The content herein is for entertainment and information only. Do not use this as a legal consultation. Every situation has different nuances that can affect the outcome and laws change without notice. If you’re in a situation that calls for legal advice, get a lawyer. You represent yourself at your own risk. The author, the Dayton City Paper and its affiliates shall have no liability stemming from your use of the information contained herein.

A.J. Wagner is an attorney with the law firm of Flanagan, Lieberman, Hoffman and Swaim at 15 W. Fourth Street in Dayton. A.J. and his firm would be glad to help you with all of your legal needs. You can reach A.J. at (937) 223-5200 or at AJWagner@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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A.J. Wagner is an attorney with the law firm of Flanagan, Lieberman, Hoffman and Swaim at 15 W. Fourth Street in Dayton. A.J. and his firm would be glad to help you with all of your legal needs. You can reach A.J. at (937) 223-5200 or at AJWagner@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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