The question of whether red light cameras are used more for safety or profit has fomented debate in Ohio and other states. Ohio drivers should remain on alert for red light cameras. The Ohio Supreme Court ruled in 2017 that restrictions on cities with red cameras are unconstitutional. That means many municipalities will continue using them to catch red light runners. Read on to learn what you need to know about the current state of red light cameras in Ohio.
Current Red Light Laws in Ohio
Currently, red light violations are misdemeanors in Ohio. But running a red light is no joke. A first offense is a minor misdemeanor, which could carry up to $150 in fines. Next, a second offense carries up to $250 in fines or a maximum 30-day jail sentence. Meanwhile, a third offense or more carries up to $500 and up to 60 days in jail.Red light convictions will add two demerit points to a driver’s record. Twelve or more points within two years result in a license suspension. A red light violation could also result in a reckless operation conviction. Failure to stop a red light that leads to a fatality could lead to vehicular homicide charges.
Ohio House Bill 410
Representative Bill Seitz (Republican, Cincinnati) introduced House Bill 410 to limit cities’ use of red light cameras to enforce traffic laws. Learn more in this article from the Springfield News-Sun. If it becomes law, cities will have to file traffic cases in municipal court rather than use an administrative process. It would also allow for the state to pull the amount a city earned from camera citations from its funding. The bill passed the House on March 21, and will go to the Ohio Senate. Rep. Seitz believes this bill would give traffic violators their due process back. Plus, it tests cities’ claims that the cameras are present for driver safety and not to generate revenue. The bill has faced resistance from people who support red light cameras in Ohio. Proponents say they make city streets safer. Bill co-sponsor Rep. Kyle Koehler (Republican, Springfield) argued the bill is not about controlling municipalities’ use of the cameras, but rather ensuring they are used for the right reasons. “We’re just saying you’re not going to police for profit,” Koehler told the Springfield News-Sun in March. “You’re not going to generate revenue off of it. That’s what the bill is really about and I agree with it. This is not a bill that restricts local control. If it’s all about safety, then it’s all about safety. But if it’s all about revenue, that’s a completely different story and that’s what this bill addresses.”
Argument Against the Bill
Those opposed to Bill 410 find it unconstitutional, as it punishes cities from exercising their home rule power. The Ohio Supreme Court recognized municipalities’ home rule power last July when it ruled red light camera restrictions conflicted with cities’ authority.“In my view, it is unconstitutional to try to punish anyone, including a city for exercising its constitutional right,” Springfield Law Direct Jerry Strozdas told the Springfield News-Sun.If the bill becomes law, it could impact cities’ finances across the state. Ohio law requires that a police officer be present to use traffic cameras for red light violations. Springfield estimated it would have to hire 42 additional police officers under the state law to run its red light camera program. The city saw 17 cameras at 10 intersections shut down in 2015 after the “police officer must be present” law passed. From 2006 to 2015, Springfield collected approximately $3.4 million in fines and saw a 51 percent decrease in car accidents at intersections with red light cameras.Springfield Mayor Warren Copeland had decided not to turn the red light cameras back on due to the drop in accidents. “Each year, we got less money because we had fewer people running red lights, which is exactly what were trying to do and we were happy about that,” Copeland said. Continue to watch the progress of Bill 410 and other developments here are across the country. Red light cameras are likely to be debated for a long time to come. If you need legal help with a traffic violation, please contact our offices. PHOTO: Pixabay / CC0 Public Domain