ARLINGTON, Va.— Today, the Institute for Justice (IJ) sent a letter to officials in the village of Peninsula, Ohio, calling on them to change their traffic camera enforcement system, which forces citizens to pay a fee to simply obtain the opportunity to contest their ticket in court. This system isn’t just an unconstitutional money-making scheme meant to enrich the village; it violates multiple liberties enshrined in both the Ohio and U.S. Constitutions.
Since late April, Peninsula police officers have been using handheld speed cameras to catch speeding motorists. Between April and September, Peninsula has issued 8,900 speeding tickets, worth $1.3 million. Approximately $560,000 has already been collected, equivalent to more than $1,000 in fines for each of the village’s 536 residents.
Courts have ruled that this level of revenue creation is unconstitutional because it creates a clear financial incentive to police in the name of profit, not public safety. Specifically, courts have ruled that if a city generates more than 10% of its revenue from fines or fees, it raises serious constitutional concerns.
Even worse, Peninsula’s system requires a motorist to pay a $100 fee to contest their ticket in municipal court. Forcing someone to pay a fee to defend themselves in court violates Americans’ due process rights, which require the government to provide a meaningful hearing before taking property. Peninsula does not waive the $100 fee for those who cannot afford to pay.
“Due process requires a meaningful opportunity to be heard before one is deprived of their property,” said Bobbi Taylor, a litigation fellow at IJ. “Forcing someone to pay a fee to defend themselves in court essentially puts the right to due process behind a paywall.”
IJ has a long history of fighting making-money schemes that prioritize profit over safety and deprive Americans of their constitutional rights. 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.