Ohio House approves effort to close speed trap loophole

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 7/14/2017

A bill halfway through the Ohio statehouse would close a loophole in state law that permits certain locales to issue civil speeding fines.

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 four years ago issued five times as many tickets as there are residents.

The Columbus-area locale also employs ticket cameras to help enforce the 25 mph speed limit. Cameras are set up in locations that include orange construction barrels.

House lawmakers voted 92-1 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. It now moves to the Senate.

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. Hearcel Craig, D-Columbus, and William Seitz, R-Cincinnati, say 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 a fundamental issue of fairness,” Craig said during House floor discussion. “Speeding tickets should be used to enforce the law, not just to bring in revenue.”

Craig said the village of Brice went as far to establish a “civil violations system.” The system permits fines of as much as $1,500 to be paid directly to the village.

According to a fiscal analysis on the bill, the village located between Interstate 70 and U.S. Route 33 is issuing over 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.

“We all know what the village of Brice is up to,” Seitz told legislators. “We are sending a clear message to the village of Brice and all other similarly situated that we do not appreciate policing for profit in local little speed traps.”

HB125 would cap fines, fees and other charges in excess of, or not included in, the local municipal or county court’s schedule of fines and costs. The bill also specifies the jurisdiction of municipal and county courts over municipal traffic ordinances.

“This legislation will help ensure that our citizens are not falling victim to abusive, excessive fines, as well as predatory speed traps set up by rogue municipalities exploiting loopholes in state law,” Craig said.

The bill awaits further consideration in the Senate Local Government, Public Safety and Veterans Affairs Committee.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Ohio, click here.

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