A Missouri appellate court judge with family ties to the red light camera industry yesterday led the charge to save photo ticketing programs from legal attack. In a per curiam decision, Eastern District Presiding Judge Robert G. Dowd Jr and two colleagues upheld the ticket issued by American Traffic Solutions (ATS) to motorist Mary Nottebrok in Creve Coeur on August 11, 2009.
“Ordinance Number 315.140 did not prohibit ‘running a red light;’ rather, Ordinance Number 315.140 prohibited the presence of a vehicle in an intersection when the traffic control signal for that intersection was emitting a steady red signal for the direction of travel or orientation of the vehicle,” the decision stated in defense of Creve Coeur’s photo enforcement ordinance.
An ATS camera photographed a car belonging to Mary Nottebrok near the offramp for Interstate 270 and Olive Boulevard. ATS demanded payment of $100 based on the alleged violation of an ordinance whose legality is under question because the Missouri legislature has refused to authorize the use of photo enforcement in the state.
Nottebrok moved to have her case dismissed on the grounds that the ordinance is not just unauthorized, but it also conflicts with a state law requiring points to be applied to the license of anyone convicted of running a red light. Most photo ticketing programs outside of Arizona and California do not assess points because of the extra work and cost involved in identifying the driver of a vehicle.
This argument follows reasoning found in a 2005 memo from Stinson Morrison Hecker, ATS’s own law firm. A March 2010 state supreme court ruling (view opinion) struck down Springfield’s red light camera program over its administrative hearing procedures, noting that red light camera violations are moving violations — which is to say, they are not like parking tickets. The Eastern District Court of Appeals, led by Judge Dowd, saw red light camera tickets as exactly like parking tickets.
“Consistent with the Supreme Court’s reasoning in Kansas City v. Hertz Corporation, Missouri law provides that a municipal ordinance can impose liability on a vehicle owner if another person parks or operates the vehicle in violation of the ordinance,” the decision stated.
The court presumed Creve Coeur’s ordinance was valid on its own terms.
“[State law] required the assessment of points for any moving violation of a municipal ordinance not specifically listed in the statute,” the decision conceded. “However, the plain language of Ordinance No. 315.140 indicated that the city intended a violation of the ordinance to be classified as a non-moving violation.”
Judge Dowd was previously with the family’s law firm Dowd and Dowd, along with his cousin, Edward L. Dowd Jr, who was a paid advocate for automated ticketing. Edward Dowd now serves as a spokesman for Missouri Families for Safer Roads, a public relations front group funded entirely by ATS. Edward Dowd is also a registered lobbyist for ATS.
A copy of the ruling is available in a 300k PDF file at the source link below.
Source: Creve Coeur v. Nottebrok (Court of Appeals, State of Missouri, 10/25/2011)