The Sixth Circuit has given red light cameras a rare victory in Ohio. Ballot initiatives against traffic cameras have consistently won across Ohio in past years, from Cincinnati to Chillicothe, and most recently in Garfield Heights. Next, an Ohio appellate court found that Cleveland could not use its red light cameras against drivers that leased their cars because the ordinance stated that the fines only applied to the registered owner of a vehicle. (The law, however, was quickly amended). That decision led to a class action to declare the improper fines a violation of the Takings Clause, asking that Cleveland disgorge the wrongly collected fines.
In McCarthy v. Cleveland (pdf), the Sixth Circuit rejected the federal claims in the class action, holding that the fines did not violate the Takings Clause because they did not attach to an “identifiable” property interest or fund of money. Even if wrongly collected, the court held that fines must target a specific piece of property or bank account to be a taking. In a concurrence, Judge McKeague added that the fines could not violate the Takings Clause because they were paid voluntarily. However, the panel reinstated the plaintiffs’ state law claims, noting that the “Ohio Supreme Court has held . . . [that] the Ohio Constitution affords greater protection than the federal Takings Clause.”