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Published: Friday, 7/14/2006

Lawsuit targets red-light cameras


A lawsuit was filed yesterday in Lucas County Common Pleas Court to put the brakes on red-light and speed-enforcement cameras at intersections in Toledo.

The complaint, which seeks class-action status, was filed by a Westerville, Ohio, woman who received a $95 ticket after running a red light in May, 2004, at Monroe Street and Talmadge Road.

Samuel Kaplan, a Toledo attorney who is representing the plaintiff, Ann Lewicki, said the ordinance enacted by Toledo to operate the camera system violates the state constitution and Ohio laws that law enforcement must follow for issuing traffic tickets.

"Most of the statutory rights are not being provided when tickets are issued to drivers," Mr. Kaplan said.

The city of Toledo and Redflex Traffic Systems, an Arizona subsidiary of an Australian company that installed and operates the digital cameras, were named as defendants in the suit, which was assigned to Judge Denise Ann Dartt.

The lawsuit asks the court to order the city and Redflex to return money collected through the Toledo red-light enforcement program to members of the potential class and to pay accrued interest and legal fees.

Northwood and other communities in the state operate similar traffic light camera systems.

The litigation follows a decision last week handed down by a judge who ruled that a speed-camera program in a southeast Ohio community was illegal.

The decision stems from a class-action lawsuit involving more than 1,500 drivers filed in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court.

Judge John M. Stuard ruled that Girard, Ohio, officials illegally changed traffic violations from the criminal code to a civil infraction in order to avoid the state law.

Mr. Kaplan said legal groundwork for the Toledo complaint began last year, and its filing was hastened by the recent Trumbull County ruling.

Toledo's program, which council enacted by ordinance in 1999, photographs vehicles of red-light and speed violators at 17 intersections throughout the city.

Mr. Kaplan said documents provided by the city show that $279,000 of the nearly $1.1 million collected in 2004 went to the city, and the remaining $800,000 was given to RedFlex.

Although he had not read it, acting Toledo Law Director John Madigan said he was not surprised that the complaint was filed in light of the Trumbull County decision.

Mr. Madigan said the city will fight the lawsuit in court.

"We don't think that the cameras are violating the constitution or state law. We believe it is well within our home-rule authority to regulate for the health, safety, and welfare of our citizens," he said.

The city's ordinance allows the violations to be treated as civil offenses with fines, but no points are assessed against the driver's record.

However, Mr. Kaplan said the use of the cameras doesn't follow state laws that law enforcement must follow in issuing traffic citations, including having officers present to witness the violation and personally serve the ticket to the motorist.

Police Chief Mike Navarre, who is an advocate of the cameras, said the department will abide by whatever decision a court ultimately makes.

"If the court tells us to suspend the program, then we will suspend the program," he said.

A spokesman for Redflex Traffic Systems in Scottsdale, Ariz., didn't return telephone calls seeking comment.

Contact Mark Reiter at:


or 419-213-2134.

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