Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Another Optotraffic Client Faces Lawsuit

Maryland based speed camera company Optotraffic is running into more difficulties expanding their business into other states, as the city of Lucas Ohio is being sued over the legality of their camera program which Optotraffic runs, according to the Mansfield News Journal.
60 individuals, mostly from the towns of Mansfield, Lucas, and Perrysville.  Several business are also represented in the suit.  The town of Lucas started their speed camera program in February under contract with Maryland based Optotraffic LLC.  Several attorneys who had been approached separately by different clients came together to file a single class action suit.  Attorneys for the motorists laid out the complaints:
Cassandra Mayer, another of the seven attorneys representing the plaintiffs, said the local lawsuit is similar to one brought against the Village of Elmwood Place in Hamilton County. 
Attorneys for people issued speeding citations say the speed camera ordinance is invalid and unenforceable because the municipality never certified that it met state requirements to post the ordinance for at least 15 days before the program went into effect. 
They also argue that procedures for appealing tickets are not consistent with rules governing Ohio’s mayor’s courts, don’t require proper service of violation notices, don’t permit those receiving tickets to require the village or Optotraffic to testify or produce evidence and don’t permit parties to subpoena witnesses. 
“There is no right of confrontation,” Mayer said. “If somebody wants to challenge it, the ordinance does not provide for notice to attorneys,” she said. 
Under the ordinance, a vehicle owner trying to fight the ticket cannot merely convince a hearing officer that they weren’t driving, but must provide the name and address of the real driver — potentially requiring them to testify against a spouse, the lawsuit said.
Clients raised issues concerning whether speeding violations actually occurred, Mayer said. Some tickets were given on stretches of Ohio 39 where state speeds, not local speeds, actually were in effect, Mayer said. “In some of the pictures, you can even see the 55 mph speeding sign in the background,” she said.
The city has responded that they have done nothing wrong and that as a local government entity they are immune to being sued.

The nearby town of Elmwood place, also an Optotraffic Client, had their speed camera slammed and shut down by an Ohio judge over similar complaints.

While Ohio courts have been skeptical of these programs and willing to intervene under their interpretation Ohio's laws in some cases, Maryland courts have refused to consider similar cases.  In Maryland the Court of Appeals ruled that paying a fine is considered an "admission that they were speeding" (using those precise words without consideration of the issue that one might not even have been driving), and therefore that the only way to dispute the manner in which a speed camera program is run is to contest each individual ticket in district court, and ruled that under Maryland law the government is immune to class action suits regardless of whether the issue in dispute has merit and regardless of the severity or systematic nature of the issue in dispute.