If you live in the Mahoning Valley Ohio, chances are you know someone who has received a traffic camera speeding ticket in the mail. These wonderful letters display a poor quality photograph of your vehicle allegedly speeding down the roadway and invite you to pay the municipality a fee for your offense. But are these speed cameras legal?
In March of 2015 the Ohio Senate passed Senate Bill 342. Effective immediately, the bill banned communities from using stand alone traffic cameras. However, it allowed traffic cameras that were manned by a police officer. Communities such as Youngstown, and Girard in Ohio, employ light detecting and ranging cameras (LiDAR) that are operated by or in the presence of a police officer.
If you drive through one of the various Ohio communities utilizing these cameras, and you are lucky enough to receive a ticket in the mail, the violation is a civil violation. This means it will not result in points on your driving record. There will however, be a fine.
DO I PAY THE FINE OR FIGHT IT?
The municipalities are counting on you paying the fine without a fight. To entice you, the fines are relatively low and the violations do not result in points on your driving record. They simply do not want to risk you challenging the constitutionality of the process. However, there has yet to be expert testimony demonstrating the scientific reliability of the LiDAR device in the jurisdictions issuing citations. For a person to be convicted of speeding based on laser-device evidence, evidence must be introduced that the laser device is scientifically reliable. East Cleveland v. Ferell, 168 Ohio St. 298, 301. Ohio law does not require an expert to testify each time the scientific reliability of the LiDAR device is brought into question. An expert would need to testify one time and be sufficiently cross examined on the scientific reliability for the court to take judicial notice of the LiDAR’s scientific reliability. This has yet to be done.
The future of LiDAR remains unknown. It appears that the process may continue status quo so long as municipalities keep the fines for tickets low enough to deter individuals from hiring a lawyer to challenge the process. But if history be our guide, the capitalistic nature of mankind dictates that you can expect a challenge soon.