Missouri Supreme Court rules against St. Louis red light camera ordinance as it is written

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Courtesy: MGN Online

ST. LOUIS, Mo. — The Missouri Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that the ordinance for red light cameras in St. Louis is unconstitutional.

Last year, St. Louis Circuit Judge Steven Ohmer invalidated the red-light ordinance in St. Louis when Sarah Tupper and Sandra Thurmond got red-light tickets after their vehicles were photographed running red lights. Both said someone else was driving at the time.

The Missouri Supreme Court affirmed Judge Ohmer’s ruling.

“This Court further finds ordinance 66868 is unconstitutional because it creates a rebuttable presumption that improperly shifts the burden of persuasion onto the defendant to prove that he or she was not operating the motor vehicle at the time of the violation,” the court’s majority wrote in the opinion in support of the women who brought the St. Louis case.

The city had argued that the owner of the car typically drives their own car 70 to 80 percent of the time. He said vehicle owners can dispute the claim.

One traffic-camera company says the ruling confirms that photo and video evidence are not allowed, and said it looks forward to working with city leaders on a new system that is in compliance with the court rulings.

The Missouri Supreme Court also ruled on an ordinance in St. Peters. In that case, they ruled that the ordinance conflicts with state law because it prohibits points being added to driver’s licenses.

In May 2013, red light cameras received the green light for another five years in a Kansas City City Council vote.  The vote was unanimous to approve another five year contract with America Traffic Solutions. However, with the cases pending in the Missouri Supreme Court, Kansas City ceased to use the cameras.

Since 2008, the city said 17 intersections had cameras taking pictures of drivers running red lights. Statistics in 2013 showed 191,000 tickets had been issued at $100 per violation.

On Tuesday, Chris Hernandez, Director of City Communications for Kansas City, Mo., released the following statement about the Missouri court ruling:

It’s important to note that the City’s legal staff is still reviewing the ruling, but it is likely that the City Manager will recommend reestablishing the cameras at our most dangerous intersections.

The current ruling may provide some guidance on significant new policy discussions that the Council would have to consider, however, we still feel the data clearly shows that red light cameras had a significant positive impact on traffic safety.

As a reminder, the City of Kansas City, Missouri has not been enforcing any red light camera cases. Additionally, you may remember that KCMO’s case was previously settled through a class action lawsuit. The current ruling involves cases in other jurisdictions.

While there was significant net revenue generated in the early years of the previous program, by the end it was essentially break even as people adjusted their behavior and stopped running red lights. 

Read more in the article on the St. Louis Post Dispatch website titled: St Louis not scrapping red-light cameras, despite Missouri Supreme Court ruling.