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Missouri Judge Embraces Red Light Camera Program
A circuit judge upholds red light cameras in Kansas City, Missouri.

Ryan A. Keane
Lower court judges in Missouri remain split on whether it is legal to use red light cameras in the state. A circuit court judge in St. Louis struck down photo ticketing for a second time last month (view ruling). Last week, however, a judge in Jackson County found that it made no difference that the state legislature had never authorized the use of automated ticketing machines.

In a brief order and judgment, Circuit Judge J. Dale Young sided with Kansas City and its for-profit vendor, American Traffic Solutions (ATS) which sought to have a legal challenge thrown out before it went to trial. Judge Young assumed an appellate court would have to sort out the current state of the law.

"This court's decision is by no means the last word on these issues," Young wrote. "Accordingly, the court determines that an extended opinion explaining the bases for its ruling on defendants' motion would provide no meaningful benefit to either party, nor to any court which might review it. Suffice it to say, the court finds the arguments set out in defendants' motion the most persuasive."

Ryan A. Keane, the attorney who argued against the use of the cameras, was disappointed by the outcome but agreed that the judge that the question of the legality of red light camera in the state is far from settled.

"You like to see an authoritative source -- either the state legislature or Missouri Supreme Court -- put this to bed once and for all," Keane told TheNewspaper in an interview. "There needs to be consensus at the highest level, and until there is, there are going to be legal challenges... We're going to appeal."

Keane's argument on behalf of his clients is simple. State law does not authorize photo ticketing, but the statutory language makes it clear that drivers are responsible for red light violations under the vehicle code. Kansas City's ordinance, like those in most cities across the state, cites owners of vehicles who may not have been driving. State law also requires that municipalities not adopt traffic laws in conflict with state law.

Though the Missouri Court of Appeals sided with red light cameras in the city of Creve Coeur, the three-judge panel's decision noted the city's public safety claims were not disputed. That is not the case in Kansas City, where the police department itself reported accidents a 12 percent increase in accidents at photo enforced intersections (view report). The police department's report was later re-written by ATS.

"There were admissions by public officials that this was being enacted for the purpose of generating revenue," Keane said. "From a factual standpoint, whether these cameras are actually good for public safety, I think Kansas City shows they've got serious problems."

A copy of the order is available in a 50k PDF file at the source link below.

Source: PDF File Damon v. Kansas City (Jackson County, Missouri Circuit Court, 6/7/2012)

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