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Village of Linndale v. State

March 24, 1999

VILLAGE OF LINNDALE, APPELLEE,
v.
THE STATE OF OHIO, APPELLANT; CITY OF BLUE ASH, APPELLEE



Appeal from the Court of Appeals for Franklin County, No. 97APE03-314.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Cook, J.

[Cite as Linndale v. State (1999), ___ Ohio St.3d ___.]

Municipal corporations - Motor vehicles - Statute prohibiting issuance of speeding and excess weight citations on interstate freeways by local law enforcement officers, inter alia, when municipality has less than eight hundred eighty yards of the interstate highway within its jurisdiction - R.C. 4549.17 is not a general law and is unconstitutional as violative of the Home-Rule Amendment.

Submitted December 2, 1998

The Ohio General Assembly enacted R.C. 4549.17 in 1994. The statute prohibits local law enforcement officers from issuing speeding and excess weight citations on interstate freeways when all of the following exist: (1) the locality has less than eight hundred eighty yards of the interstate freeway within its jurisdiction; (2) the local law enforcement officers must travel outside their jurisdiction to enter onto the interstate freeway; and (3) the local law enforcement officers enter the interstate freeway with the primary purpose of issuing citations for speed or weight violations. Approximately twenty-five municipal corporations within Ohio meet the geographic criteria and are thereby foreclosed from enforcing their local speed and motor vehicle weight ordinances on the interstate system located within their jurisdiction.

The village of Linndale ("Linndale"), one of the affected municipal corporations, sought a judgment declaring that R.C. 4549.17 is unconstitutional as violative either of Section 26, Article II of the Ohio Constitution (the "Uniformity Clause") or of Section 3, Article XVIII of the Ohio Constitution (the "Home-Rule Amendment"), or both. Linndale named the state of Ohio and the city of Blue Ash ("Blue Ash") as defendants to the action. Blue Ash cross-claimed against the state.

The trial court ruled on cross-motions for summary judgment, finding that R.C. 4549.17 does not violate the Uniformity Clause, but that it is unconstitutional because it does violate Sections 3 and 7, Article XVIII of the Ohio Constitution.

Cross-appeals followed the decision of the trial court, and the Franklin County Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court's judgment. The court of appeals, having determined that the statute violated Sections 3 and 7, Article XVIII of the Ohio Constitution, did not take up Linndale's cross-appeal, in which it argued that the statute was also unconstitutional based on a violation of the Uniformity Clause.

The cause is now before this court upon the allowance of a discretionary appeal.

This case turns on the question of whether R.C. 4549.17 is a general or a special law. If it is a general law, then it prevails over the local traffic laws of affected municipalities because a municipality's police regulation must yield to the state's general police regulation when the two conflict. If, however, R.C. 4549.17 is not a law applying to citizens generally, but an attempt to limit the powers of a municipal corporation to adopt or to enforce police regulations, it must be struck down as unconstitutional. Because R.C. 4549.17 is not a general law, we find it unconstitutional as violative of the Home-Rule Amendment.

The Home-Rule Amendment grants to Ohio municipalities "authority to exercise all powers of local self-government and to adopt and enforce within their limits such local police, sanitary and other similar regulations, as are not in conflict with general laws." Section 3, Article XVIII, Ohio Constitution. Thus, a municipality may regulate in an area such as traffic whenever its regulation is not in conflict with the general laws of the state. Geauga Cty. Bd. of Commrs. v. Munn Rd. Sand & Gravel (1993), 67 Ohio St.3d 579, 583, 621 N.E.2d 696, 699. "Municipalities in Ohio are authorized to adopt local police, sanitary and other similar regulations * * * and derive no authority from, and are subject to no limitations of, the General Assembly, except that such ordinances shall not be in conflict with general laws." Struthers v Sokol (1923), 108 Ohio St. 263, 140 N.E. 519, syllabus.

The state argues that R.C. 4549.17 is a general law that is part of a comprehensive statewide regulatory scheme covering the interstate highway system and that the General Assembly enacted it to assure the traveling public that law enforcement on the interstate highways was not occurring merely as a revenue-raising plot. Linndale and Blue Ash, on the other hand, posit that R.C. 4549.17 is a special law and therefore cannot rightfully enjoin their police officers from enforcing local traffic laws within their boundaries.

General laws are those enacted by the General Assembly to safeguard the peace, health, morals, and safety and to protect the property of the people of the state. Schneiderman v. Sesanstein (1929), 121 Ohio St. 80, 82-83, 167 N.E. 158, 159. General laws "apply to all parts of the state alike." Id. at 83, 167 N.E. at 159. This court held in W. Jefferson v. Robinson (1965), 1 Ohio St.2d 113, 30 O.O.2d 474, 205 N.E.2d 382, paragraph three of the syllabus, that "[t]he words `general laws' as set forth in Section 3 of Article XVIII of the Ohio Constitution means [sic] statutes setting forth police, sanitary or similar regulations and not statutes which purport only to grant or to limit the legislative powers of a municipal corporation to adopt or enforce police, sanitary or other similar regulations." (Emphasis added.) This court also defined general laws as those operating uniformly throughout the state, prescribing a rule of conduct on citizens generally, and operating with general uniform application throughout the state under the same circumstances and conditions. Garcia v. Siffrin Residential Assn. (1980), 63 Ohio St.2d 259, 271, 17 O.O.3d 167, 174, 407 N.E.2d 1369, 1377-1378 (citing Schneiderman, supra). " `Once a matter has become of such general interest that it is necessary to make it subject to statewide control so as to require uniform statewide regulation, the municipality can no longer legislate in the field so as to conflict with the state.' " Ohio Assn. of Private Detective Agencies, Inc. v. N. Olmsted (1992), 65 Ohio St.3d 242, 244, 602 N.E.2d 1147, 1149, quoting State ex rel. McElroy v. Akron (1962), 173 Ohio St. 189, 194, 19 O.O.2d 3, 6, 181 N.E.2d 26, 30.

Given these parameters, we determine that R.C. 4549.17 is not a general law. Because a municipal corporation's authority to regulate traffic comes from the Ohio Constitution, State v. Parker (1994), 68 Ohio St.3d 283, 285, 626 N.E.2d 106, 108; see, also, Munn, supra, a statute that, like R.C. 4549.17, purports only to limit this constitutionally granted power is not a "general law." W. Jefferson v. Robinson (1965), 1 Ohio St.2d 113, 30 O.O.2d 474, 205 N.E.2d 382, paragraph three of the syllabus. As the trial court properly found, R.C. 4549.17 is "simply a limit on the legislative powers of municipal corporations to adopt and enforce specified police regulations." The statute before us is not a part of a system of uniform statewide regulation on the subject of traffic law enforcement. It is a statute that says, in effect, certain cities may not ...


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