Missouri Supreme Court rules on traffic-camera challenges

Written by Muleskinner Staff


(JEFFERSON CITY, Mo., AP) — The Missouri Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that there are constitutional or legal issues with three cities’ traffic-camera ordinances, a move that has already prompted at least two cities to say they will likely redraft the programs.
The rulings address court challenges to red-light cameras in St. Louis and St. Peters and speeding cameras in Moline Acres.
The court identified issues with how those cities were implementing the programs and gave what some consider guidance on how to lawfully and constitutionally use the cameras.
A spokesman for Kansas City — which was not part of the lawsuits — said the city manager likely will “recommend re-establishing the cameras at our most dangerous intersections.” Spokesman Chris Hernandez said in a statement that the ruling might help the city draft such an ordinance.
Charles Territo — a spokesman for American Traffic Solutions, a traffic-camera company named in the St. Louis case, said in a statement that the company looks “forward to working with communities throughout Missouri to restart their safety programs in full compliance with the direction provided in the multiple opinions issued today.” He said that could mean transitioning to systems that take photos of drivers.
Here’s a rundown of the issues the Supreme Court found:
St. Louis:
The city issued tickets to the owner of a vehicle shown running a red light on a traffic camera, and that person then could argue that they were not driving the vehicle at the time of the alleged violation.
A majority of Supreme Court judges found St. Louis’ red-light ordinance unconstitutional because it shifted the burden to the defendant to prove another person was operating the vehicle.
St. Louis officials say they now plan to rework that ordinance.
“The City’s goal from the outset has been to utilize technology in a way that allows us to make optimal use of police manpower while at the same time safeguarding individuals’ constitutional rights,” Deputy St. Louis City Counselor Michael Garvin said in a statement. “We will work with the Board of Aldermen to prepare a new ordinance that complies with the Court’s rulings.”
A spokesman for Mayor Francis Slay said the city has stopped issuing red-light tickets and dismissed pending cases, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Spokeswoman Maggie Crane told the paper that those who have paid red-light camera tickets in the past year and a half will be refunded.
St. Peters:
Cameras in St. Peters snap photos of both the vehicle license plate and the driver, which then are used to issue a ticket to a vehicle’s owner for running a red light. Supreme Court judges ruled the part of the city’s red-light ordinance stating no points would be assessed against a driver’s record is invalid. That provision runs contrary to state law, which requires two points to be assessed for moving violations.
Most judges agreed to strike the no-points provision of the ordinance, but said that the rest of the policy is valid. They said violators from now on could incur points on their records.
City representatives couldn’t immediately be reached for comment Tuesday.
Moline Acres:
At issue in Moline Acres was an ordinance to use traffic cameras to spot vehicles speeding. That ordinance categorized such infractions as “non-moving” violations that would not lead to points on a driver’s record.
Moline Acres had argued that it did not issue tickets for “moving violations;” attorneys for the city said tickets were issued to vehicle owners for allowing their vehicles to speed, even if someone else was driving.
The court ruled the ordinance made an unconstitutional presumption that a vehicle owner granted permission for another person to speed using the owner’s vehicle.
The Supreme Court did not strike the ordinance down, but a majority noted the city must prove beyond a reasonable doubt in court that a vehicle owner gave permission for another driver to speed in the owner’s vehicle.
Alderwoman Shonte Young said the city will review the ruling Wednesday.
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