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3News Investigates: Speed camera tickets — to pay or not to pay?

Speeding cameras have been the center of controversy for more than a decade, but should you actually pay the fines? The answer depends on your comfort level.

CLEVELAND — In some neighborhoods, they're notoriously spotted; in others, you don't even see them. We're talking about speeding cameras.

For years, Northeast Ohio cities have relied on speeding tickets, sent by mail, as a source of revenue — lots of it. Fines collected have to be reported to the Ohio Department of Taxation.

3News Investigates obtained records showing since 2020, seven Northeast Ohio cities and townships have reported nearly $25 million collectively:

  • Newburgh Heights: $13,763,318.74
  • Linndale: $3,519,015.42
  • Parma: $2,933,444.92
  • East Cleveland: $2,200,597.00
  • Walton Hills: $1,432,515.19
  • Akron: $733,052.50
  • Parma Heights: $373,202.17

It's quite the pay day for the communities, but as Andy Mayle — a Toledo-based attorney who has spent the last decade fighting tickets like these — says, only if you pay the bill.

"This is purely a money grab by municipalities," Mayle told us.

Mayle was among the those who fought to bring a change to a state law now requiring municipal courts to hold jurisdiction over cases that involved filing for speeding camera tickets. According to him, if you receive a ticket in the mail, you have options.

"You don't have to panic and pay that," he explained. "Yes, you could defend yourself and say, 'You have to file this in court.' They can force the cities to try to chase them, but in most circumstances, the cities do not do that."

The recourse if you throw the bill in the trash, Mayle says, is nothing, especially if the city doesn't file a case in a municipal court.

"Maybe they'll file a small claim suit against you for $150, but in the real world, that doesn't happen, because they then have to spend their own time, money, and resources pursuing you," he added. "What the municipalities are hoping is that you're a sucker and that you'll pay them out of fear, because they have no right to suspend your driver's license if you don't pay.

"I have not seen a situation where a client or potential client has had their credit negatively harmed by this."

To learn more about how the city keeps track of tickets, 3News Investigates asked all seven municipalities for the number of tickets issued and the amount that remain unpaid. All of them told us they didn’t maintain that data, resorting to the camera vendor for the information.

Information from the camera vendor Walton Hills uses told 3News that through November 2022:

  • 7,073 citations were issued
  • 3,485 citations remain unpaid, equating to $472,900 in revenue

In Parma, as of early December:

  • 23,349 citations were issued.
  • 9,594 of those citations remain unpaid, equating to $1,447,600 in revenue

"There's not any good check and balance on this whatsoever," Mayle said.

3News Investigates' on-camera interview requests with the most of the communities' police departments were declined or went unanswered, including one with Linndale Police Chief Timothy Franczak. He only offered a statement: "If you receive a ticket – it should be paid."

Mayle was clear, though: If you're receiving multiple tickets and not paying them, you could end up in small claims court.

To check and see if your city has filed a case against you for the ticket – you can call the municipal court or check the online docket.

East Cleveland Municipal Court

Parma Municipal Court

Parma Heights Municipal Court

Akron Municipal Court

Linndale traffic ticket payments and search are facilitated through the Parma Municipal Court, while Newburgh Heights and Walton Hills ticket payments and search are facilitated through the Garfield Heights Municipal court. Click here for their online docket or call (216) 475-1900.

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