Ohio's top court rejects traffic camera appeal: New Miami to repay $3M in fines?

Ohio's top court rejects traffic camera appeal: New Miami to repay $3M in fines?

COLUMBUS, OH (FOX19) - Will a southwest Ohio village have to repay motorists $3 million from traffic camera fines after the state's top court rejected their appeal?

The Ohio Supreme Court said Wednesday it will not consider a state appeals court's decision requiring New Miami in Butler County to repay the money.

Attorney Josh Engel, who is representing some 30,000 motorists ticketed in 2012 and 2013, tells FOX19 NOW he now plans to seek an order requiring the village to fork over the money plus interest as soon as it's practical.

He estimates the interest ranges from $300,000 to $500,000.

Engel and other critics say traffic camera tickets are nothing more than government money grabs.

"If you collect money under an unconstitutional scheme, you gotta pay it back," he said. "This is great news for motorists who were ticketed there. People want to know that these are for a real purpose and not just to generate revenue."

New Miami has been fighting a 2014 ruling from a Butler County judge who found their automated system violated due process.

The judge said ticket challenges were heard during a village administrative hearing instead of in court.

The village argued on appeal it can't be sued for protecting the public's safety.

"The idea of immunity is to cover what we normally think of as accidents, not intentional efforts by the government  to violate constitutional rights," Engel said.

But New Miami's attorney, James Englert, says the case is not over yet and hints it may ultimately end in the village's favor.

"Yesterday, the Court declined to accept our appeal on the issue that the Village should have had sovereign immunity protection for monetary compensation on plaintiffs' claim that the administrative hearings violated due process," he wrote in a statement to FOX19 NOW.

"Three of the seven justices thought it was an issue that should have been reviewed by the Supreme Court.  So we're disappointed, but -- the main issue in the case – whether the administrative hearings violated due process rights – has not yet been appealed.

"We think the trial court was mistaken in holding that due process was violated. We can appeal that issue after the trial court holds a hearing on attorney fees for class counsel and issues a final judgment.   Our appeal will be to the Ohio 12th District Court of Appeals."

"Recently, Ohio Courts have held that the very similar traffic program administrative hearings in Dayton, Trotwood and West Carrolton did not violate due process."

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