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Ohio Lawyers Push For Restitution In Illegal Camera Case
Lawyers demand full refunds for illegally issued speed camera tickets in New Miami, Ohio.

Charles H. RittgersAn Ohio judge last month refused to garnish the profit from speed camera tickets, so lawyers in the case against the town of New Miami have upped their demands. Attorney Charles H. Rittgers last week formally insisted that the judge order New Miami to pay back every cent that was unlawfully collected from motorists -- $3,066,523.55. That represents a significant increase from the $1.8 million previously sought.

In his July ruling (view case), Butler County Common Pleas Court Judge Michael A. Oster Jr was careful not to overstep his authority while appeals in the case were pending. That caution is no longer warranted, as the case has been formally sent back to Judge Oster.

"The Twelfth District [Court of Appeals] affirmed the decision of the trial court," Rittgers explained. "The Ohio Supreme Court has declined jurisdiction on a further appeal pursued by the village."

The attorneys representing photo ticket recipients cited a number of court precedents that argued a full refund was the appropriate remedy when a government entity unlawfully charges or overcharges citizens. The doctrine of sovereign immunity, Rittgers argued, did not apply.

"In this case, the village has wrongfully collected $3,066,523.55 under an invalid ordinance," Rittgers wrote. "Ohio courts, in this situation, have ordered the repayment of these funds."

The demand for the full refund will put a strain on the finances of the town of 2300, which used an automated speed trap on US Highway 127, a major route to Cincinnati, to generate six times the town's population in tickets. The town had hired Optotraffic to run the program in exchange for a 40 percent cut of each ticket issued. Under this arrangement, Optotraffic pocketed $1,226,409. A judgment would force the village to either come up with the money or sue the vendor for compensation.

New Miami officials have yet to file their response to the renewed demand. Village attorneys have attempted to use procedural maneuvers, such as pointing out lapsed filing deadlines, as a means of having the case thrown out. The village has also argued that the inherent powers of local self-government allow it to enforce any ordinance it chooses related to police powers.