Ohio Senate committee advances bill to close speed trap loophole
July 20, 2018
A bill on the move at the Ohio statehouse is intended to close a loophole in state law that permits certain locales to issue civil speeding fines.
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 five years ago issued five times as many tickets as there are residents.
The Columbus-area community has been described as employing ticket cameras to help enforce the 25 mph speed limit.
The Senate Local Government, Public Safety and Veterans Affairs Committee voted 8-1 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.
House lawmakers already approved the bill on a 92-1 vote.
A 2013 Ohio law attempted to end the practice of unfair ticketing practices in the state’s smallest locales by taking away mayor’s courts.
Reps. Hearcel Craig, D-Columbus, and Bill Seitz, R-Cincinnati, have said 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 previous discussion on the bill at the statehouse. “Speeding tickets should be used to enforce the law, not just to bring in revenue.”
Craig has said the village of Brice went as far to establish a “civil-violations system.” The system permits fines 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 rouge municipalities exploiting loopholes in state law,” Craig said.
The bill awaits further consideration in the Senate. If approved there, it would head back to the House for approval of changes before moving to the governor’s desk.
A House bill would eliminate citation quotas for state or local law enforcement. Specifically, HB616 would forbid performance evaluations from comparing the number of citations issued by one officer to the number of citations issued by another officer.
Advocates for the rule refer to tying an officer’s ticket writing activity to his or her performance evaluation as the “dirty little secret” of some police forces. They say the practice turns officers into revenue generating machines.
The state Attorney General’s Office would be allowed to investigate any anonymous report of a police officer of such activities.
The bill is in the House Government Accountability and Oversight Committee.
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