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Cincinnati Ohio paying back alarm registration fees and false alarm fines
April 1, 2023
Cincinnati Ohio paying back alarm registration fees and false alarm fines 
          Cincinnati Ohio paying back alarm registration fees and false alarm fines.  
Lee Jones
          The City of Cincinnati lost the case White, et al v.  City of Cincinnati Ohio, et al in the Court of Appeals, First Appellate District.  Because of that loss Cincinnati’s City Council has authorized transferring of $1,480,000 to reimburse citizens who paid alarm registration fees and false alarm fines between 2014 and 2021.  The fees and fines were challenged by end user and an alarm company, both of whom paid registration fees and / or alarm fines. The City won in the lower court.  On appeal the intermediate appellate court reversed.  On March 15, 2023 the highest court in Ohio refused to hear the appeal, so game over.
          The Appellate Court first analyzed whether the fees were a tax or charge for service.  That discussion didn’t interest me.  What did interest me, and will interest you, is how the Court got around to finding that the fees and fines were impermissible.  Keep in mind that similar registration fees and false alarm fines are assessed in many municipalities [including mine – so I am considering a lawsuit].  The Court discussed some of the issues that I have thought about, and complained about.
          The Court recognized that a basic function of government is police protection.  It then noted that those paying registration fees and false alarm fines were not being accorded any special protection.  Police responded, or didn’t respond, in the same manner whether there was a registration fee or not.  The false alarm fines were not being used for any special protection but making their way into the general fund. 
          Basically, the argument goes, if all members of the public are entitled to police protection and all were getting that protection in the same manner regardless of alarm registration fees or fines, then those paying those charges were being taxed for nothing, no additional benefit.  In other words, their property [money] was taken for no reason; they were being given equal treatment under the law; their due process rights were being violated. 
          This won’t be the last challenge we see and it will be interesting to see how other courts handle the issue.  We are likely to see distinctions in how police departments run their alarm registration and alarm response as well has how false alarm fines are determined and where the money goes.  These issues are likely to evolve as municipalities struggle to figure out more ways to tax some of their people, making sure we’re paying our “fair share”. 
          So just to complete my thoughts, which I know won’t be popular with some, why are we registering our alarms and paying fines when all we are getting is the same protection everyone else is getting?  If alarm registration actually helps police with its response duty then why are those with alarms paying for that service to the police?  Maybe they should pay the alarm user.

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Ken Kirschenbaum,Esq
Kirschenbaum & Kirschenbaum PC
Attorneys at Law
200 Garden City Plaza
Garden City, NY 11530
516 747 6700 x 301