Appeals court ruling striking down red-light camera ordinance impacts KC

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ST. LOUIS, Mo. -- A town’s red-light ordinance that charges drivers $100 per violation has been determined to be invalid because it contradicts Missouri law on the subject of moving violations. The opinion filed on Tuesday comes as the result of a class action petition filed against an Ellisville, Mo. ordinance and it could have statewide impact.

Locally, Kansas City, Mo. Communications Director Danny Rotert said in light of the ruling the city will cease to process red-light camera violations until a clearer interpretation is given from the state.

“We will wait for the Supreme Court to take up the case, or some other court to take up the case to give us some clarity as to what we're supposed to do going forward," Rotert said.

It should be noted that if a uniformed officer pulls a driver over for running a red light and issues a ticket, that ticket is enforceable and must be taken care of by the driver.

As the ruling relates to Ellisville, according to the opinion filed on Tuesday, its ordinance declares that when an infraction occurs, it is not a moving violation reportable to the Missouri Department of Revenue. Many ordinances are similar in declaring the camera violations as 'non-moving' offenses.

The court declared that the act of running a red light is clearly a moving violation, citing section 302.225 under Missouri law:

“That character of traffic violation where at the time of violation the motor vehicle involved is in motion.”

This is an issue as it relates to the points system assessed to drivers who receive moving violations under Missouri law. The court agreed with two of the petitioners that the ordinance directly conflicts with a state statute that assesses points for the revocation and suspension of driver’s licenses for any moving violation under state, county, municipal or federal traffic ordinance.

The court said that because the ordinance allows drivers to commit moving violations without being assessed points, it directly conflicts Missouri law and, therefore, is unenforceable.

In its conclusion, the court states that unless a change happens in Missouri law or cities revise ordinances to eliminate conflict with Missouri law, red-light camera regulation will continually be in violation of state law and are void and unenforceable.

Kansas City attorney Howard Lotven has handled over 1,000 of the red light camera tickets in Kansas City alone and said he agrees with the court’s opinion.

"I am not surprised. I've been arguing since ‘09 that cities cannot usurp state law and make a moving violation into a non-moving violation,” Lotven said.

Lotven said that he believes this ruling could spell the end for red-light cameras in KC, despite the city extending a contract for them mere months ago.

"I think they're going to have to ultimately cancel the contract, cancel the ordinance, dismiss all pending violations," Lotven said.

Despite the belief that the cameras are in place for constant surveillance, Rotert said safe driving habits are the priority.

"The whole reason we have this program is not be 'big brother' and not to try to get everybody into court, but it really is to try to reduce the amount of red lights that are run in this town, and that has actually been happening," Rotert said.

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