2/26/2014Missouri Supreme Court Rejects Red Light Camera Companies
Missouri Supreme Court rejects red light cameras and speed cameras as some state House members attempt to save them.
Red light camera companies could be in trouble in Missouri. The state Supreme Court on Tuesday declined to accept any of the desperate appeals filed by local municipalities and photo enforcement vendor American Traffic Solutions (ATS). As a result, three Court of Appeals cases that went against the use of red light cameras become final and are the law of the land.
The state House of Representatives will vote Wednesday on House Bill 1557 which would undo the rulings and rescue the camera companies from the cases brought by attorney Ryan A. Keane, Damon v. Kansas City (view decision), Unverferth v. Florissant (view decision) and Ballard v. Creve Coeur (view decision).
"Today's decision means that any red light camera or speed camera ordinance that circumvents the state law requiring points be assessed for moving violations is void and unenforceable," Keane told TheNewspaper. "This is important because it confirms common sense. If camera systems are designed to promote public safety -- rather than generating revenue --, then cities cannot circumvent a public safety law. Moreover, because moving violation points must be assigned to a driver's license, city prosecutors must prove beyond a reasonable doubt who was actually driving, which they cannot do using American Traffic Solutions' camera system. Hopefully, the practical effect of today's decision will be that local governments and ATS can no longer operate their camera systems like an ATM machine."
It is still possible that the high court may take up one of the two remaining appeals on the issue of photo ticketing, but that would not happen until March 25 at the earliest. Until then, a city ordinance that allows photo tickets to be issued without license points "unequivocally conflicts with the state statute and is therefore void."
Aldermen in St. Peters voted last November to revise the city's red light camera ordinance to issue points with red light camera tickets, though the town is one of the few in Missouri to use Redflex. In 2006, the mayor of St. Peters was convicted of soliciting a bribe from Redflex and spent a little over a year in prison.
State Representative Dave Hinson (R-St. Clair), a recipient of campaign cash from American Traffic Solutions, proposed House Bill 1557 to rescue the company from its legal troubles (view bill). The proposal would authorize the use of cameras without the issuance of license points. Floor amendments have been filed to divert ten percent of red light camera ticket profit to driver education courses. Matt Hay, former city councilman for the city of Arnold and creator of the WrongOnRed website, believes photo ticketing supporters will have a tough time even passing a bill into law and surviving the court challenges.
"Unless they can pull a Hail Mary and get something through the Senate to give them cover, it looks like the cameras will be sitting there useless for many months," Hay told TheNewspaper. "Many of the contracts specify these are no points violations, so they would have to be rewritten as well, in the face of tremendous opposition. It is a poison pill of sorts at the moment, and will be interesting to see which leaders are willing to risk the wrath of their constituents to serve their ATS and Redflex patrons, and who will cut their loses, and just dispense with their now voided contract and systems altogether."