Missouri: Judge Finds Red Light Camera Program Illegal

The Newspaper
by The Newspaper
missouri judge finds red light camera program illegal

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.

Smith v. St. Louis (Missouri Circuit Court, 5/20/2011)

[Courtesy: Thenewspaper.com]

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  • Jimal Jimal on May 25, 2011

    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.

    • See 2 previous
    • Stevelovescars Stevelovescars on May 25, 2011

      @MikeAR http://theweek.com/article/index/202620/the-evolution-of-the-word-tea-bagger 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.

  • Robbkcmo Robbkcmo on Jun 23, 2011

    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.

  • MaintenanceCosts This class of car competes hard with Chargers/Challengers and modded diesel pickups for the douchey-driving crown.
  • 28-Cars-Later Corey - I think I am going to issue a fatwa demanding a cool kids car meetup in July somewhere in the Ohio region.
  • Master Baiter Might as well light 50 $100 bills on fire.
  • Mike1041 At $300K per copy they may secure as much as 2 or 3 deposits of $1,000
  • Sgeffe Why on Earth can’t you just get the torque specs and do it yourself if you’re so-inclined?!