1/30/2014Fourth Missouri Court of Appeals Ruling Strikes Down Traffic Cameras
Missouri Court of Appeals applies ruling that red light camera programs are illegal to speed camera tickets.
The legal departments at photo enforcement companies have been having a bad year so far. Last week, the Ohio Appeals Court allowed motorists to sue for a class action refund of speed camera tickets. An ongoing federal court battle revealed to the world that a former top Redflex executive admitted his company has bribed officials in over a dozen states. On Tuesday, red light camera programs in Missouri suffered another defeat in the state's second highest court.
The use of red light cameras and speed cameras in the Show Me State has always been precarious because it has never been authorized by the state legislature. Local jurisdictions continue to insist they have the right to install the devices on their own authority, even though a 2010 state Supreme Court ruling struck down Springfield's program as illegal on narrow grounds, while hinting in footnotes that the justices might look favorably on a broader legal challenge (view opinion).
In the present case, KMOX Radio personality Charlie Brennan challenged a $124 speed camera that B and W Sensors mailed to him over an alleged speed violation in Moline Acres on August 10, 2012. Brennan argued his due process rights were violated and that the program conflicts with state law. St. Louis County Circuit Court Judge Mary B. Schroeder agreed and dismissed the case, and Moline Acres appealed.
The three-judge appellate panel sided with Brennan since state law treats speeding violations as misdemeanors punishable by a fine and license points. The court rejected the municipal attempt to re-define speeding as a civil offense that carries no points, citing the Edwards v. Ellisville opinion issued in November (view ruling).
"[The] city argues that because the ordinance imposes liability on the owners of motor vehicles, rather than drivers, for the manner in which their vehicles are operated, the ordinance does not directly conflict with the state's statutory scheme which imposes liability on drivers," Judge Lisa S. Van Amburg wrote for the court. "[The] city's argument was recently rejected in Edwards v. City of Ellisville... We find Edwards controlling and therefore hold that because the ordinance in this case imposes strict liability on the owner of a vehicle rather than the driver, it conflicts with the state's law to the extent that it permits the prosecution and penalization of persons who were not actually driving the vehicle."
The decision makes it clear that the legal problems with automated ticketing machines not only apply statewide, but other legal problems might arise if the appeal rises to the Supreme Court.
"Because we find the ordinance void and unenforceable we decline to consider whether the ordinance was validly enacted pursuant to city's police powers or whether it violates Brennan's due process rights," Judge Van Amburg concluded.
This decision follows two other recent appellate defeats for Missouri cameras in the Western District (view ruling) and the Eastern District (view ruling). A copy of the latest ruling is available in a 100k PDF file at the source link below.