Reconsidering Camera Fiascos
By AJ Wagner
This is a follow up to my suggestion a few weeks ago that the traffic cameras for speed and red light violations are unconstitutional. I had a paragraph in that story about a 91-year old man who paid his tickets and was still towed. I was not totally correct. Turns out, he paid three of four tickets, leaving one unpaid. Although the city had announced they would tow if there were two or more tickets on a vehicle, once on the list, the car is gone.
Some thought I had impugned the integrity of officers who were doing their job. From what I’m now told, the officers acted professionally. They offered the gentleman another chance to pay the final ticket and even offered him a ride home which, in his anger, he refused. I never intended to discredit the officers who were doing what the law requires, and I apologize to the officers involved.
My beef is with the law. It is unconstitutional. It should not have been passed and should not be enforced. But that is not for the police to decide. They didn’t pass the law and they don’t get to decide if it’s unconstitutional or even if it’s fair. They must do their jobs even when it is unpleasant to them. I have had very, very few experiences with Dayton police that I would call unprofessional. As a former judge, I can attest to the fact that they are a top notch organization.
However, this recap actually further makes my point. The 91 year old gentleman could not complain to a magistrate or judge, he could not challenge the operation of the camera, he could not challenge anyone to prove he was driving the car, he could not ask for mercy due to poverty or fixed income. The gentleman was found guilty by a camera and his car, with an approximate value of $5,000, was taken away from him. The only people he could plead his case to were the police, and although they were polite, they could not really listen because everything the gentleman said cannot and should not deter them from their duties.
I wrote that Dyer, Garofalo, Mann and Schultz were looking into a suit against the City of Dayton based on the cameras. Here are three sets of allegations upon which they will be basing their law suit. Again, this is the job the camera laws impose upon the police.
The first case involves a woman whose boyfriend used her car. He racked up 10 tickets in four months. You can file an appeal with the City by swearing that another person was driving your car, but to do so requires that you first pay the tickets. She had no money to file the appeal. She came home one evening at 11:30p.m. to find her driveway blocked by a cruiser. She was advised she had outstanding tickets and the car was towed. To get her car back required her to rent a car so she didn’t lose her job, take out a loan, and get a second job to pay back the loan. The boyfriend is history.
Another case alleges that a mother with a young child was in a grocery store parking lot when the police caught up with her. She had no idea she had any tickets because she had moved, and all of the tickets were sent to her previous address. She was able to come up with the money for the tickets and paid them. After that, she went to retrieve her car … only to find out she had to pay the tow plus $20 per day for storage. Her car remains in storage because she cannot come up with the money to pay the tow and storage fee, which continues to climb.
A third allegation maintains that the police showed up as a couple was preparing to leave for the hospital, where the wife was to undergo testing. Their car remains impounded because the couple cannot afford to pay the towing company. The couple received a letter from the Dayton Police Auto Recovery Unit that states, “The vehicle will only be released or processed after a detective removes the criminal hold or after the court removes the ALS/FRA (Administrative License Suspension or Financial Responsibility, lack of insurance) suspension and OVI [drunk driving] traffic hold.” The man was fully insured and has no criminal violations or OVIs on his record, but his car is still impounded because of “civil” tickets and his financial circumstance.
All the professionalism in the world could not overcome the anger of these individuals and others like them
Note to City Commission: Please repeal these laws. They are unfair to your citizens and do not comply with the Constitutions you were sworn to uphold.
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.