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Court News Ohio

First District: City’s “Toy-Vehicle Ordinance” Ruled Constitutional

Image of someone riding a skateboard (Thinkstock)

The city of Blue Ash’s ordinance banning “toy vehicles,” such as skateboards, on the street ruled constitutional.

Image of someone riding a skateboard (Thinkstock)

The city of Blue Ash’s ordinance banning “toy vehicles,” such as skateboards, on the street ruled constitutional.

A Cincinnati suburb’s law banning people on roller skates, sleds, and skateboards from public roads is valid, and the city didn’t violate a man’s “constitutional right of movement and personal enjoyment” for ticketing him on a motorized skateboard, an Ohio appeals court recently ruled.

Matthew Price was riding the skateboard in the crosswalk of Kenwood Road in Blue Ash in October 2016 when he was struck by a vehicle. Blue Ash police cited Price for violating its toy-vehicle ordinance that states: “No person on roller skates, or riding in or by any means of any sled, toy vehicle, skateboard or similar device shall be permitted on any street, highway or public lot unless the same is designated and marked as a ‘play street’ or ‘play lot.’”

Price appealed his citation, which was a minor misdemeanor, to Hamilton County Municipal Court. The trial court determined the toy-vehicle ordinance was “void for vagueness” and violated Price’s constitutional “right of movement and personal enjoyment” when it determined the law confined skateboards to play zones. The court found Price not guilty.

Blue Ash didn’t contest Price’s overturned verdict, but appealed the municipal court’s ruling that the ordinance was unconstitutional to the First District Court of Appeals.

Travel Protected, Movement Not, Court States
Writing for the First District, Judge Dennis P. Deters explained in its March 23 decision that Ohio has recognized interstate travel on public roads as a fundamental right protected by the due process clause of the U.S. Constitution. That right allows everyone to “roam about innocently in the wide-open spaces of our state parks or through the streets and sidewalks of our most populous cities,” he wrote, citing the Ohio Supreme Court’s 2001 State v. Burnett decision.

But Ohio hasn’t recognized a right of “movement and personal enjoyment,” the First District opinion stated, and noted that laws can place restrictions on modes of travel, such as requiring a motor vehicle driver to have a license. The First District cited a federal court case that found while there is a fundamental right to travel, there is no fundamental right to drive.

Court Finds Skateboard Restriction Not Vague
Blue Ash also challenged the contention that the law was “void for vagueness” because the law doesn’t state that it applies to motorized skateboards. Laws must be written “so a person of common intelligence is able to determine what conduct is prohibited,” the First District wrote, and a law isn’t void for vagueness simply because it could have been worded more precisely. Every word in a law doesn’t have to be defined, and an undefined term can be given its common, everyday meaning, the court explained.

Although the ordinance doesn’t mention motorized skateboards, the First District found nothing in the law to suggest it only applies to “human-powered” modes of transportation, and determined that a motorized skateboard falls into the ordinance’s definition of skateboard.

The First District also disagreed with the trial court’s indication that the ordinance limits skateboard use to play zones and play streets. The ordinance only prohibits the toy vehicles from streets and public lots where motor vehicles travel, and doesn’t prevent the toys from being used on sidewalks or other areas, the court concluded.

Judges Marilyn Zayas and Charles M. Miller joined the opinion.

Blue Ash v. Price, 2018-Ohio-1062.

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