Ohio City Forced to Return $3.3 Million in Unconstitutional Fees

December 21, 2022


Cincinnati charged “alarm fees” to homeowners and businesses protecting themselves with security alarms.


Cincinnati, OH – The Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas today ordered the City of Cincinnati to return the $3.3 million that it illegally assessed to home and business owners since creating “alarm user registration fees” in 2014.

The 1851 Center for Constitutional Law’s victory on behalf of a certified class of 23,000 home and business owners comes after a five-year legal battle concluded with an Appellate Court holding the City’s “alarm user registration fees” to be unconstitutional double-taxation, and the Ohio Supreme Court declining to overturn that decision.

“The Court’s decision affirms that Ohio taxpayers can and should prevail when cities attempt to swindle them through unlawful taxes, fees, and assessments,” said Maurice Thompson, Executive Director of the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law. “This case should dissuade cities from attempting to impose backdoor fees for either services citizens’ taxes already fund, or no services at all.”

Judge Wende Cross certified classes of home and business owners who paid $50 and $100 annual fees, respectively, and ordered that all fees be refunded by February 21, 2023. Most homeowners will receive between $78 and $312.

Until the First District Court of Appeals ruling in 2021, the City forced homeowners to pay the fees before they were permitted to use home security alarms to defend themselves and their families. The Court found the fees to be “a tax, and the imposition of that tax is unconstitutional,” explaining that “taxpayers, already pay for police protection through their tax dollars,” that “imposing a separate fee or penalty constitutes a form of double taxation,” and that “the assessments have a chilling effect in deterring citizens from utilizing alarm systems to protect themselves, their homes, and their property.”

Read more about the underlying case here.


The 1851 Center for Constitutional Law is a nonprofit, nonpartisan legal center dedicated to protecting the constitutional rights of Ohioans from government abuse. The 1851 Center litigates constitutional issues related to property rights, regulation, taxation, and searches and seizures.