Cincinnati’s “alarm tax”

The 1851 Center for Constitutional Law
September 4, 2018

Ohio Cities Cannot Prohibit Use of Security Alarms

Cincinnati’s “alarm tax” violates homeowners’ right to communicate, freedom from double-taxation

Cincinnati, OH – The 1851 Center for Constitutional Law has moved to invalidate a municipal ordinance that forbids homeowners from protecting themselves with a home security alarm unless they first pay a punitive tax to the City.

The legal action against the City of Cincinnati is brought on behalf of several homeowners and real estate investors who face $800 fines for simply using home security alarms to protect their homes, rental properties, and vacant investment properties, i.e. calling the police to inform them of potential criminal activity at the property.

Through its Motion for Preliminary Injunction, the 1851 Center explains that the City’s ordinance violates the Freedom of Speech by restraining and punishing the truthful reporting of criminal conduct while also impermissibly double-taxing homeowners who already pay for police protection through their general taxes:

  • The Ohio Constitution protects Homeowners’ fundamental right to protect themselves and their homes, and cities cannot tax homeowners for the exercise of this right, especially when they are not requesting police assistance.
  • Speech in defense of oneself and one’s property is just as vital to protect as political speech. Homeowners maintain a First Amendment right to share evidence of criminal conduct on their properties with law enforcement, whether directly or through hiring an alarm company.
  • Cincinnati’s “alarm fee” is an unconstitutional tax because the City spends it on anything it likes, annually collects more than twice what it spends on security alarm issues, and the fees are imposed irrespective of whether homeowners with alarms actually use more city services.

“Ohio cities’ new practice of forcing homeowners to pay a fee for the privilege of protecting themselves, their families, and their homes with a security alarm is not just an unconstitutional tax, but an outright scam, taxing those who report crime and forcing taxpayers to pay twice for police protection,” explained 1851 Center Executive Director Maurice Thompson. “Government should encourage self-defense and crime-reporting, rather than prohibiting such socially beneficial conduct.”

The City of Cincinnati demands $100 up-front before one may use a security alarm, and those who protect themselves with security alarms without paying the fee are fined up to $800. This prohibition applies even to “local alarms” that do not involve police

The case is pending before Judge Michael Barrett of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio. However, the 1851 Center has moved to remand the case to state court.

Read the 1851 Center’s Motion for Preliminary Injunction HERE.


Maurice A. Thompson
(614) 340-9817



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