CINCINNATI - A Hamilton County judge has slammed the brakes on a small Southern Ohio village's traffic camera program, calling it a "scam that the motorists can't win."
In what is being called the first of its kind, Common Pleas Judge Robert Ruehlman held that the Elmwood Place's traffic speed cameras program violates a driver's state constitutional right to meaningfully challenge the ticket.
The judge said that motorists who appeal the ticket cannot cross examine witnesses with personal knowledge of the incident and cannot obtain records about the accuracy of the camera that issued the ticket.
As a result, the judge said, the village ordinance unfairly stacks the deck against motorists who appeal their traffic camera tickets.
"Elmwood Place is engaged in nothing more than a high-tech game of 3 Card Monty," Ruehlman noted. "It is a scam that the motorists can't win."
It is unclear how the ruling with affect other speed camera programs in Ohio, given that Ruehlman's decision deals specifically with how Elmwood Place operates its appeals hearing.
Other cities use different methods to hear ticket appeals.
For instance, in Cleveland a hearing officer looks at the photo and video evidence submitted by the city and then listens to the motorist's side. The hearing officer then decides whether to enforce the ticket, dismiss it or reduce the fine.
Cleveland spokeswoman Maureen Harper says the Hamilton County ruling "has no effect on the City of Cleveland's automated traffic enforcement ordinance and program, which advances the safety of our community."
Elmwood Place installed two speed cameras last September after entering in to a contract with Optotraffic, a Maryland-based company that provides automated speed and traffic enforcement systems to local governments.
Drivers who go over the speed limit are issued a $105 ticket. The ticket is not a criminal offense, so no points are assessed on the driver's license. The driver can appeal the ticket after paying a $25 fee.
Under the contract, the village gets 60 percent of the ticket and Optotraffic gets 40 percent.
For a look at Cleveland's traffic cams and most dangerous intersections: wkyc.com/trafficcams