Should Government Officials Face Criminal Charges Over Speeding Cameras?

The following story is one that I’ve just come to see that is currently taking place in Elmwood Place, Ohio. The violation of civil rights for the enrichment of government via traffic “scameras.” That’s right I combined the word “scam” with “camera” and have seen it too often in the Queen City of Charlotte, North Carolina. While these systems are most definitely put in place for money, not safety, the people in Elmwood Place aren’t standing for it and they have filed a lawsuit to get their money back for being ticketed by the cameras. However, a bigger question should be why aren’t criminal charges being filed against the village council and the police chief over these clear violations of civil rights? News, Weather

I became aware of this incident via Ben Swann’s Reality Check on the issue. Lest you think this is specific to Elmwood Place, think again. These scams by cities all over the country should be looked into and opposed by citizens. They are nothing more than a shake down for money by government, but in the process they are eroding basic civil rights.

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The Elmwood Place council passed a resolution in July, 2012 and then put them to work on September 1, 2012. By January of this year they had collected $1.75 million in traffic fines. That’s right, nearly $2 million was collected in four months by this little scamera operation.

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The company that owns and operates the cameras, Optotraffic, got 40% of that money. Seems like a conflict of interest don’t you think?

A lawsuit was filed to get an injunction to stop Elmwood Place from using these cameras and prevent more speeding tickets provided by them, along with collections of the fines.

Swann says that the judge that ruled on the case had a “colorful way” of describing what Elmwood Place was doing.

“Elmwood Place is engage in nothing more than a high-tech game of 3 card monte. It is a scam that motorists can’t win.”

Judge Robert Ruehlman

The judge went on to say that the entire operation went on to violate basic due process guarantees.

One of those instances is that state law requires that photo monitoring devices cannot be used in a village unless a sign has been erected warning motorists that a camera device is operating. Elmwood’s police chief has testified that a motorist could enter the village and go through the speed enforcement area without ever passing a warning sign.

If you get ticketed, you are mailed a notice of liability, with a penalty of a $105.00 fine. However, if the recipient wants to contest the ticket, it costs him a $25.00 fee with no assurance that he will have that fee returned if his appeal is successful. Talk about a shakedown!

Should a hearing take place, a witness for Elmwood Place would testify from a report produced by, you guessed it, Optotraffic. Again, seems there is a serious conflict of interest here. However, Judge Ruehlman states that the person “witnessing” is not a witness at all because they have no personal knowledge of the speeding violation. Furthermore, the accused has no ability to cross examine the witness because the witness wasn’t present when the alleged violation occurred.

However, it goes deeper. The Elmwood Place scamera system violates Ohio State law. If the owner of the vehicle that was ticketed is not the person driving, it requires that the owner provide the name and address of the party that was driving the vehicle. If the driver was the owner’s spouse, the owner is required to testify against their spouse. Swann points out that this is a violation of “spousal immunity” in Ohio.

In conclusion, there is a bigger issue here than the people filing a lawsuit to get their money back. There are serious civil rights violations by individuals, including the police chief and the members of Elmwood Place council.

Doing the math of $105 per fine, it appears that well over 19,000 people had their most basic civil rights violated in this little shakedown by Optotraffic and Elmwood Place.

So, along with suing to get their money back, why aren’t criminal charges being filed against the chief of police and the member of the Elmwood Place village council? According to Swann, who spoke with Fox 19’s legal expert Don Moore, the police and government officials start with immunity. However, if these individuals breech the civil rights of the people under their authority, they can be charged with a crime. The real question is just how egregious are the violations of civil rights? After all, it doesn’t make a difference that the town council wasn’t “personally involved” in enriching themselves with the money. The issue is, is it more acceptable to violate the rights of more than 19,000 people for the “village budget?”

In the end, for the government, it is always about money and control and when that happen it will always means violations of the individual to obtain that goal. This is a pertinent issue for thousands of cities across America. Red light cameras, speeding cameras and all sorts of things that deny due process are in place and being put in place at the expense of the individual’s freedom. I have always said that lawsuits should not be against nameless, faceless government entities but against the individuals who commit the crimes. After all, when you sue the government, you are in essence suing yourself and your neighbors, not those who actually wronged you. Good for those who are standing up to Elmwood Place! I’m hopeful others will begin to do the same.

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