ARLINGTON, Va.—Today, Stow Municipal Court issued a court order declaring it will suspend its appeal fee that required motorists to pay $100, which effectively put justice behind a paywall. Motorists passing through the village of Peninsula and the Cuyahoga Valley National Park will now be free to challenge a speeding ticket in court without first paying an unnecessary and excessive fee.
Last month, the Institute for Justice sent a letter to the village of Peninsula, Ohio calling on officials with the town to change their traffic enforcement system, which violated motorists’ constitutional rights, particularly their right to due process. Additionally, IJ called upon the Stow Municipal Court to drop its $100 fee associated with speeding ticket appeals.
Since the late spring of 2023, Peninsula police officers have used handheld speed cameras to issue thousands of speeding tickets, producing hundreds of thousands of dollars in income for the tiny village. Worse yet, drivers who chose to contest their ticket were forced to pay a $100 fee to the Stow Municipal Court. That fee was unconstitutional because it violated Americans’ right to due process, which requires the government to provide a meaningful hearing before taking an individual’s property.
“We are pleased that the Stow Municipal Court has suspended its unconstitutional $100 fee for the right to contest a traffic violation,” said IJ Litigation Fellow Bobbi Taylor. “We hope that this ‘suspension’ will become a permanent protection of the constitutional right to due process.”
While Stow Municipal Court made the right decision to respect motorists’ constitutional rights, IJ continues to call on the village of Peninsula to reassess its traffic enforcement system more broadly. A tiny village of just 536 people, Peninsula has issued 8,900 tickets since April, providing $1.3 million in revenue. These staggering numbers raise concern that the village’s ticketing is nothing more than a policing for profit scheme. Various courts have ruled that such revenue generation, especially at the levels seen in Peninsula, raises serious constitutional concerns. Specifically, courts worry law enforcement could be enforcing the law in the name of profit, not public safety.
IJ has a long history of fighting money-making schemes that prioritize profit over safety. IJ has sued dozens of local governments for infringing on citizens’ rights by collecting unreasonable fees, including through procedures that violate the Constitution’s due process clause. IJ’s litigation includes Timbs v. Indiana, in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the U.S. Constitution’s protection against excessive fines applied to state and local governments.
About the Institute for Justice
Through strategic litigation, training, communication, activism, legislative outreach and research, the Institute for Justice advances a rule of law under which individuals can control their destinies as free and responsible members of society. IJ litigates to secure economic liberty, educational choice, private property rights, freedom of speech and other vital individual liberties, and to restore constitutional limits on the power of government.