5/25/2006Ohio: Senate Committee Passes Speed Camera Ban
Ohio legislature moves closer to an effective ban on speed cameras and severe restrictions on red light camera use.
An Ohio state Senate committee voted this week in favor of legislation that would effectively ban speed cameras in the state and impose costly restrictions on the use of red light cameras. Representative Jim Raussen (R-Springdale) had introduced the bill to, in effect, ban both types of photo enforcement in a measure overwhelmingly adopted by the House last year. The Senate committee, however, modified Raussen's bill to allow red light cameras but remove a few of the existing high-profit incentives to use the devices.
The Senate bill bans the use of speed cameras unless a police officer witnesses the incident and personally tickets the motorist responsible at the time of the incident. It also ends the current practice of paying camera vendors a cut of the revenue generated, offering an incentive to trap as many motorists as possible. Instead, the proposal mandates flat-rate contracts. The bill also prohibits private vendors from reviewing photographs to determine guilt, a change that will substantially increase the cost of ticket programs as police would have to assume this function. The measure also forces city to adopt standardized yellow signal timing set by the Ohio Department of Transportation.
If after two years a red light camera produces an increase in accidents at a particular intersection, the city would have to remove it. This provision would have resulted in the eventual removal of most of the red light cameras in Washington, DC and San Diego, California. The bill also establishes a bicameral legislative traffic law photo-enforcement study committee to hear from the public and interested parties and make recommendations within six months.
The measure now heads to the Senate floor for a vote. Differences between the House and Senate versions would need to be reconciled in a conference committee before becoming law. In March, West Virginia became the latest state to ban all forms of photo enforcement.
Article Excerpt:As Reported by the Senate Highways and Transportation Committee
126th General Assembly, Regular Session, 2005-2006
Sub. H. B. No. 56
Representatives Raussen, Seitz, Brinkman, McGregor, D. Evans, Fessler, Aslanides, Reidelbach, Gilb, Buehrer, Hood, Daniels, Taylor, Martin, Gibbs, Faber, Raga, Blessing, Schneider, Uecker, Bubp, J. Stewart, Schaffer, Webster, Key, Law, Widowfield, Calvert, Coley, Collier, Flowers, Hughes, T. Patton, Peterson, Seaver, Setzer, Trakas, Yates
A BILL To enact sections 4511.092 and 4511.093 of the Revised Code to establish conditions for the use of a traffic law photo-monitoring device to detect certain traffic law violations.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE STATE OF OHIO:
Section 1. That sections 4511.092 and 4511.093 of the Revised Code be enacted to read as follows:
Sec. 4511.092. (A) As used in this section and section 4511.093 of the Revised Code:
(1) "Law enforcement agency" means any law enforcement agency of a local authority.
(2) "Law enforcement officer" means any law enforcement officer employed by a law enforcement agency of a local authority.
(3) "Local authority" means a municipal corporation, county, or township.
(4) "Motor vehicle leasing dealer" has the same meaning as in section 4517.01 of the Revised Code.
(5) "Motor vehicle renting dealer" has the same meaning as in section 4549.65 of the Revised Code.
(6) "Qualified traffic violation" means a violation of either of the following:
(a) A traffic control signal;
(b) A railroad crossing sign or signal.
(7) "Ticket" means any traffic ticket, citation, summons, or other notice of liability issued in response to an alleged traffic law violation detected by a traffic law photo-monitoring device.
(8) "Traffic law photo-monitoring device" means an electronic system consisting of a photographic, video, or electronic camera and a means of sensing the presence of a motor vehicle that automatically produces photographs, videotape, or digital images of the vehicle or its license plate.
(B)(1) A local authority that authorizes the enforcement of traffic laws by means of traffic law photo-monitoring devices shall do all of the following:
(a) Enter into a contract with a vendor for the installation or maintenance of the devices or the provision of any other services related to the devices only if the contract involves payment to the vendor on a fee basis that is not contingent upon the number of tickets issued or the amount of fines levied or collected by the local authority due to traffic law violations detected by the devices;
(b) Use the devices only for the enforcement of a qualified traffic violation, unless a law enforcement officer is present at the location of the device and issues the ticket at the time and location of the violation;
(c) Conform the use of the devices to all standards developed by the department of transportation under section 4511.093 of the Revised Code, including the timing of yellow lights and yellow arrows on traffic control signals;
(d) At least thirty days before a traffic law photo-monitoring device becomes operational, erect a warning sign that conforms in size, location, and content with standards established by the department of transportation under section 4511.093 of the Revised Code and provide appropriate notice to local print and electronic media of the location of the device and the date the device will be operational;
(e) Prescribe a fine in an amount not exceeding the fine established by the municipal or county court having territorial jurisdiction over the entire or most of the political subdivision of the local authority, in its schedule of fines established pursuant to Traffic Rule 13(C), for a substantively comparable traffic law violation;
(f) Prior to requiring payment of any fine, provide any person who receives a ticket for a noncriminal traffic law violation detected by a traffic law photo-monitoring device with the opportunity for a hearing before a hearing examiner or referee of a traffic violations bureau to answer the allegation by an admission, an admission with a mitigating explanation, or a denial;
(g) Process all fines and costs from a traffic violation detected by a traffic law photo-monitoring device by a violations clerk of a traffic violations bureau established in accordance with Traffic Rule 13.
(2) A local authority that authorizes the enforcement of traffic laws by means of traffic law photo-monitoring devices may establish an administrative fee, in an amount not to exceed the fine prescribed in accordance with division (B)(1)(e) of this section, to be imposed and collected by a hearing examiner or referee of a traffic violations bureau that enters a judgment against a person who denied committing the violation.
(3) A local authority that authorizes the enforcement of traffic laws by means of traffic law photo-monitoring devices shall not use any such device to photograph, videotape, or produce a digital image of a vehicle operator for the purpose of enforcing traffic laws.
(C)(1) During the first thirty days a device is operational, the local authority shall issue only warning notices and shall not issue any ticket for any traffic law violation detected by the device.
(2) The local authority shall compile accident statistics for each location of a traffic law photo-monitoring device and shall update the statistics for each location two times per year. For every twenty-four-month period after the device is installed, the local authority shall determine the change in the number of accidents at the location. If any twenty-four-month period shows an increase in the number of accidents at the location, the local authority shall either remove the device or shall allow the use of the device to continue only if a law enforcement officer is present at the location of the device and issues the ticket at the time and location of the violation.
(D)(1) Only a law enforcement officer may examine the image recorded by a traffic law photo-monitoring device to determine whether a motor vehicle operator has committed a qualified traffic violation. If the image shows an alleged violation, contains a notation of the date and time of the alleged violation, and permits the law enforcement officer to read the letters and numbers on the motor vehicle's rear license plate, the officer may issue a ticket to the vehicle owner. In the case of a leased or rented vehicle, the law enforcement officer shall not issue a ticket in the name of a motor vehicle leasing dealer or motor vehicle renting dealer.
(2) No ticket issued by mail for an alleged violation detected by a traffic law photo-monitoring device shall contain the vehicle owner or operator's social security number, and no request for information from the owner of a motor vehicle shall request the owner to provide another person's social security number or driver's license number.
(3) A motor vehicle leasing dealer or motor vehicle renting dealer who receives a ticket for an alleged violation detected by a traffic law photo-monitoring device is not liable for a ticket issued for a vehicle that was in the care, custody, or control of a lessee or renter. A dealer who receives a ticket for such a violation may notify the law enforcement agency that issued the ticket of the vehicle lessee or renter's identity, but in no case shall the dealer pay a ticket and then attempt to collect a fee or assess the lessee or renter a charge for any payment of such a ticket made on behalf of the lessee or renter.
(E) Upon receipt of a ticket for a noncriminal traffic law violation detected by a traffic law photo-monitoring device:
(1) A person who admits committing the violation shall sign the ticket and pay the fine.
(2) A person who admits committing the violation with a mitigating explanation shall submit evidence to the traffic violations bureau that explains the circumstances surrounding the violation. The evidence may be submitted in person or, to avoid the necessity of personal appearance, may be sent by mail as affidavits and other documentary evidence. A bureau that receives an answer admitting that a person committed a violation with explanation shall proceed in the same manner established in division (B)(2) of section 4521.06 of the Revised Code and promptly determine whether the explanation mitigates the fact that the person committed the violation, notify the person, in writing, of its determination, and determine the amount of the fine, if any. If the person fails to pay the amount of any fine due within ten days after receiving notice of the bureau's determination, the determination and the amount of the fine due shall be considered a judgment and shall be treated as if it were a judgment rendered subsequent to a hearing held pursuant to division (F) of this section.
(3) A person who denies committing the violation shall answer with a denial and request a hearing from the traffic violations bureau concerning the violation. Upon receipt of a hearing request, the traffic violations bureau shall set a date for the hearing and notify the person, in writing, of the date, time, and place of the hearing.
(F) A hearing examiner or referee of a traffic violations bureau shall conduct a hearing for a noncriminal traffic law violation detected by a traffic law photo-monitoring device and any payment of a judgment against a person pursuant to this section shall be made and processed in the same manner as established in section 4521.08 of the Revised Code. Any person against whom a judgment is entered for such a violation may appeal the judgment in the same manner as established in section 4521.08 of the Revised Code.
(G) A traffic law violation detected solely by means of a traffic law photo-monitoring device shall not be considered a criminal offense for purposes of any driving record maintained by the bureau of motor vehicles, and no points shall be assessed for any such violation under section 4510.036 of the Revised Code.
Sec. 4511.093. (A) The department of transportation shall develop standards governing the use of traffic law photo-monitoring devices and shall include the standards in the appropriate departmental standards and policy documents, including the Ohio manual of uniform traffic control devices. The standards shall include criteria for selecting locations at which the devices may be installed, size, location, and content standards for warning signs indicating the existence of a traffic law photo-monitoring device, and technical specifications that the devices and associated traffic signals must meet in order to be utilized by local authorities.
(B) At any intersection where a traffic law photo-monitoring device is installed, the time period during which the traffic control signal displays a yellow light or yellow arrow shall conform with the provisions contained in the manual adopted by the department pursuant to section 4511.09 of the Revised Code governing the time of display of yellow lights and yellow arrows by traffic control signals, and that time period shall not be shorter than the time period prescribed by that manual for intersections that are of the same type or have the same characteristics as the intersection at which the traffic control signal is located.
Section 2. Not later than sixty days after the effective date of this act, any local authority using a traffic law photo-monitoring device to enforce traffic laws shall conform each existing device and the use of the device to the provisions of section 4511.092 of the Revised Code, including any standards established by the Department of Transportation pursuant to section 4511.093 of the Revised Code. Any ticket issued by a local authority for a traffic law violation detected more than sixty days after the effective date of this act by a device that does not conform to the provisions of this act is invalid.
Section 3. There is hereby created a legislative traffic law photo-enforcement study committee consisting of six members, as follows: (1) Three members of the Senate, no more than two of whom shall be members of the same political party, one of whom shall be the chairperson of the Senate committee dealing primarily with highway matters, one of whom shall be appointed by the President of the Senate, and one of whom shall be appointed by the Minority Leader of the Senate; (2) Three members of the House of Representatives, no more than two of whom shall be members of the same political party, one of whom shall be the chairperson of the House of Representatives committee dealing primarily with highway matters, one of whom shall be appointed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, and one of whom shall be appointed by the Minority Leader of the House of Representatives. The committee shall evaluate the use of traffic law photo-enforcement devices within Ohio, considering any testimony from citizens, local authorities using the devices, businesses that provide the devices, and other available information. Not later than six months after the effective date of this act, the committee shall make recommendations to the Majority and Minority Leaders of the Senate and House of Representatives concerning the use of traffic law photo-enforcement devices within Ohio.