Snowy license plate led to speed camera mistake

Samuel Mink, of Jackson Township, received a $95 ticket in the mail last week. It showed a photo of a pickup truck captured speeding on in New Miami in Butler County on Feb. 5. The truck was going 47 mph in a 35 mph zone, according to the ticket.

The problem is that neither Mink, nor his truck, were in New Miami that day. Plus the truck in the photo is not his.

He says he's sure he and his wife didn't leave the house on Feb. 5 because it was so cold. A snow and ice storm blanketed the area the night before and temperatures were in the 20s that day.

"I got a speeding ticket in a vehicle that was never in that county," he said Friday. "My truck is a four-door and that truck is a two-door, different color than mine."

Mink drives a four-door white pickup, while the truck pictured is a two-door gray pickup. The license plate is similar to his, but part of it is obscured by snow in the photo.

"They were playing a guessing game," he said.

Mink said he's tried to contact New Miami Police, calling five times over a two day period, to point out the mistake.

"They won't return my phone call," he said.

He's worried that if he can't get the error cleared up, his truck could get towed. He went to the Jackson Township Police Department on Friday to see if they could do anything to help him.

New Miami Police have not returned calls for comment on Friday.

In July 2013, a lawsuit was filed against the village of New Miami claiming the speed-enforcement cameras stationed along U.S. 127 are unconstitutional.

The suit, filed in Butler County Common Pleas Court, names four area residents and businesses as plaintiffs, but states it could become a class action, meaning that anyone who has received a ticket from New Miami's speed cameras could join the suit as a plaintiff. The suit was filed by Lebanon attorney Charles Rittgers and Mason attorney Michael Allen. New Miami Police Chief Kenneth Cheek is named as a defendant.

According to the lawsuit, New Miami's speed camera ordinance is unenforceable because it "fails to provide adequate due process to vehicle owners as guaranteed by the Ohio Constitution," and because it divests the New Miami Mayor's Court and the Hamilton Municipal Court of jurisdiction.

The way the ordinance reads, "If you weren't driving that day, you have to inform whoever it was that was driving your vehicle that day, if you know. That's the only defense … it's all hearsay evidence, and there's no way to contest the accuracy of the camera and how it obtained your speed," Rittgers said.

One of the plaintiffs in the suit is Hamilton resident Doreen Barrow, who got a speeding ticket on July 2. She wishes to present evidence that she was not driving through New Miami at the date and time noted on the citation.

Don Muirheid, of Cincinnati, has a business that received notice of a violation on June 17. Muirheid has directed his employees to avoid traveling through New Miami, resulting in increased travel time and expenses.

Plaintiffs Michelle Johnson of Liberty Twp. and Diane Woods of Cincinnati paid their fines but did not believe they were speeding.

The suit also states that New Miami's speed camera ordinance is "virtually identical" to the one in the village of Elmwood Place in Hamilton County, which used the same camera company, called Optotraffic. Judge Robert Ruehlman of Hamilton County Common Pleas Court, ruled that their cameras violated due process and ordered them to be removed. In his ruling, the judge called their system "a scam that motorists cannot win."

A Hamilton resident, Lara Rodeffer, acting without an attorney, successfully sued New Miami over her speeding ticket. In her case, however, the ruling was not because of the cameras, but because the village failed to provide a transcript of her administrative hearing.

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