By on May 24, 2011

A circuit court judge in St. Louis, Missouri on Friday ruled the city’s use of automated ticketing machines violated state law. Since 2007, St. Louis gave the private company American Traffic Solutions (ATS) the right to issue tickets worth more than $30 million to the registered owners of vehicles that are photographed at local intersections. A class action suit by several motorists challenged the program on various legal and constitutional grounds.

Circuit Judge Mark H. Neill rejected most arguments claiming the program violated due process rights, although he left open the possibility that the city failed to notify ticket recipients of their right to a hearing. The plaintiffs came much closer to success when arguing that the local ordinance violated a state law requiring all moving violations be reported to the state Department of Revenue so that license points could be imposed.

“Although the ordinance is not in direct conflict with the specific statutes cited by plaintiffs, the ordinance may still be invalid if the city did not have the proper authority to enact such an ordinance,” Judge Neill ruled. “Municipalities may not enact ordinances which are contrary to or conflict with state law… The use of an automated traffic control system to police traffic offenses is a drastic departure from the traditional police powers granted to municipalities; and as seen here, it raises a whole host of legal and constitutional issues. A municipality may only exercise its police powers under authority granted to it by the state.”

That grant has never been given Missouri. The state legislature has declined on several occasions to enact any law granting legal recognition to the use of cameras, despite a heavy lobbying effort by ATS lobbyists.

“Because the red light camera ordinance does not enact ‘rules of the road’ or ‘traffic regulations,’ the court finds, in absence of enabling legislation by the state of Missouri, that the city of St. Louis did not have authority to enact such an ordinance. Therefore, Ordinance Number 66868 is void,” Judge Neill concluded.

A close reading of the March 2010 state supreme court decision striking down Springfield’s red light camera hearing process indicated the court would look favorably on Judge Neill’s reasoning. The high court noted that Springfield had shortened the yellow timing at several intersections just prior to installing the cameras (view opinion). Oddly enough, the main law firm retained by ATS, Stinson Morrison Hecker, agreed with Judge Neill in a 2005 memo that stated red light camera tickets in Missouri would not hold up in a court of law (view full letter).

A copy of the decision is available in a 1.3mb PDF file at the source link below.

Source: PDF File Smith v. St. Louis (Missouri Circuit Court, 5/20/2011)


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14 Comments on “Missouri: Judge Finds Red Light Camera Program Illegal...”

  • avatar

    The endless arguing about the technicalities surrounding the camera scams causes me to morn the loss of intelligence in america. Any citizen who values their rights and freedoms would simply throw out anyone who participated on any level in these cameras, be they cop, judge, or the guys that put them up.
    Instead, in my area there are an endless parade of folks interviewed on the evening news with the old chestnut “I don’t have anything to hide”. So we submit like sheep to red light and speed cameras, airport searches, drug screens, smoking bans, and on and on. Very few in this country even have an idea of what freedom would look like.
    To paraphrase, “first they came for the others, then they come for you”.

  • avatar

    The problem is that most every conversation on most every topic these days turns into a polarizing political debate, where hyperbole and dogma supplant intelligence and logic. In an earlier thread I asked what the opportunities were within the CAFE standards for manufacturers and I was schooled about how “opportunity” was a Socialist code word. The same thing happens when people start talking about the Government taking away their freedoms. I completely agree with you about red light cameras and probably many other topics, but when I start hearing “The Great Freedom Argument”, or references to George Orwell, I tune out.

    I simply don’t feel as oppressed as certain people tell me I am. And typically the people telling me I’m being oppressed in certain ways they don’t agree with are more than happy to give up their rights and freedoms in ways they do agree with. Yet another reason to tune out.

  • avatar

    “The high court noted that Springfield had shortened the yellow timing at several intersections just prior to installing the cameras ”

    We The People need to protect ourselves from this stuff. If safety was the reason for the cameras why in the world do they shorten the yellows when it has already been proven a longer yellow reduces accidents,

    Shorten the green and red lights, that I could live with.

  • avatar

    The article does not mention that Judge Neill was appointed by a Democratic governor. I bring this up only because I have noticed that “The Newspaper” always seems eager to point out the party affiliations of judges when a Democrat or Democratic appointee hands down a decision with which it disagrees.

  • avatar

    I don’t usually get involved in these political debates, but this is coming right on the heals of my annual car registration renewal which just went up to $485 for my three-year-old Mazda5.

    Weak politicians who are unwilling to make tough choices that might in any way be perceived as a tax increase apparently have no issues approving dangerous actions like reducing the length of yellow lights in order to increase traffic fine revenue. Every-day fees like vehicle registration, parking permits, and any other thing you need from cities or states are also rising because these functions still need to run and there is no other source of money with which to operate them. The average wait at my local DMV office is over 3.5 hours just to renew a registration or get a print-out of your own driving record because they had to furlow half of the staff… for an agency that actually generates revenue. Isn’t that wasted time a form of tax on the citizenry?

    To me, this is situation with red-light cameras is completely ass-backwards and clearly stupid from any possible reasoning, from revenue collection (giving the majority of the revenue to the camera companies) to safety (shortening yellow lights). Yet it requires inane legal wrangling to get someone to say “no” to them?

    Why there hasn’t yet been a popular uprising save for the idiotic “Tea Party” which seems to exaserbate the issue, is beyond me.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m convinced it is the noise. Right now the squeakiest wheels are squeaking loudly and that is the Tea Party. There are people, like those from, who are speaking out on the topic without trying to turn it into a larger ideological discussion. I believe that while the majority of the public at large, once they understand what the deal is with these cameras, is against them, but The Great Freedom Argument makes them uncomfortable. Not because they disagree, but when they see protesters wearing tri-corner hats and tea bags and they see the lunatic fringe.

      • 0 avatar

        They were sold on the idea that people who wanted responsible and accountable government constituted the lunatic fringe. The real problem is the huge population of hand puppets whose empty heads were waiting vessels for the term Tea Bagger, allowing the entrenched special interests to continue robbing them blind of their earnings and futures. Pathetic in the extreme.

  • avatar

    I don’t want to get too far off topic here (and I’m trying not to be so argumentative on the Interwebs) so I will mention that 1) The term “tea bagger” to describe a member of the Tea Party movement was actually coined by a Tea Party member. Unfortunately and indicative of how naive the early Tea Party followers were. The Tea Party movement in many ways reminds me of the Hippy movement of the late 60’s; lots of noise, lots of attention and probably some interesting History Channel programs in the future, but ultimately a footnote on one election cycle.

    • 0 avatar

      We’ve got a regime of detached campus radicals now, so your post shows your usual level of awareness.

    • 0 avatar

      Jimal could you cite something that actually attrbutes tea bagger to a supporter of the movement? My guess is that you’re wrong about that but I’m not going to waste time looking.

      • 0 avatar

        It took me less than 2 seconds to find multiple locations with similar information about the recent evolution of the term “Tea Bagger.”

        In summary, early Tea Party protests included the mailing of tea bags to members of congress and other organizations. Protest signs at Tea Party gatherings started using phrases like “Tea Bag the idiots in DC.” Then the jokes started… yada yada yada.

  • avatar

    Here’s my problem with red-light cameras: they assume the owner of the car is driving. In my case, I do not own the car I drive, it is registered by a family member. And, she isn’t a licensed driver anymore, in any state. You don’t have to be a licensed driver to own a car, just to operate one. The car is insured by me, in my name, but it registered by her. So, not only could my use cause a violation of a red light, but she could also be charged with operating a motor vehicle without a license. That’s a major problem, even if it only affects 1000 people. No one should be charged for the illegal operation of another of a vehicle they own. And before I hear the comments of “well she should just allow you to register it in your name,” she won’t do that, and neither will any of my family for medical reasons. I’m qualified to drive, but not to own a vehicle – and there are roughly 9% of drivers who either are or should be in the same situation.

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