A bill halfway through the Ohio statehouse would close a loophole in state law that permits certain locales to set speed traps.
The legislative action is spurred by enforcement efforts in the village of Brice in Franklin County. The 114-person village in central Ohio has a one-man police force that three years ago issued five times as many tickets as there are residents.
House lawmakers voted unanimously to advance a bill to discourage local speed traps by making county and municipal courts responsible for citations issued in villages with fewer than 200 residents.
A 2013 Ohio law attempted to end the practice of unfair ticketing in the state’s smallest locales by taking away mayor’s courts.
Reps. Cheryl Grossman, R-Grove City, and Hearcel Craig, D-Columbus, say that despite the state’s efforts to rein in “rogue villages” some tiny towns have found a way to continue issuing revenue-raising tickets.
“I believe this bill addresses the fundamental matter of fairness,” Craig said during House floor discussion. “This legislation will ensure our citizens are not falling victim to speed traps and excessive fines governed by a different set of rules beyond what state law prescribes.”
Craig said the village of Brice went as far to establish a “civil violations system.” The system permits fines to be paid directly to the village.
According to a fiscal analysis on the bill, the Columbus-area village located between Interstate 70 and U.S. Route 33 is issuing more than 1,000 violations each year and collecting more than $100,000 in civil penalties.
Speed limit violations are $200 – more than twice the amount the county court charges.
Grossman said during floor discussion that the county clerk of courts found the disparity does not end there.
“The fines and costs assessed by the village for civil citations far exceed the fines and costs assessed by the Franklin County Municipal Court with no option to appeal a conviction,” Grossman said.
She highlighted that the village’s average violation for expired tags was $750. In comparison, the city of Columbus charges $97.
HB335 would cap fines and fees that exceed local municipal or country courts’ list of costs. Direct payments to villages would also be eliminated by handing over local municipal and county courts full jurisdiction over municipal traffic ordinances.
“This legislation will ensure our citizens are not falling victim to speed traps and excessive fees governed by a different set of rules beyond what state law prescribes.” Craig said.
The bill awaits further consideration in the Senate State and Local Government Committee.
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