St. Louis Launches New Tactic to Get You to Pay Red-Light Camera Tickets

redlightnick.jpg
Yes, but can the city enforce the tickets?
The St. Louis Board of Aldermen last month approved legislation allowing the city to fine people up to $500 for failing to appear in court on summons regarding municipal law violations.

The law addresses any municipal law infraction, though it seems specifically tailored to red-light camera tickets. Why? Because if someone fails to appear in court for breaking other municipal driving laws (ie. speeding, driving without insurance, driving without a license) the city can issue a warrant for the person's arrest.

That's not true with red-light camera tickets. The city confirms to Daily RFT that it does not issue warrants for people who don't pay and/or don't appear in court over red-light camera tickets. City officials hope the possibility of a $500 fine will now get people to pay up, though one local attorney says even these new fines are unenforceable.

"If they fine you for failure to appear in court, they're still starting from the same corrupt kernel because they have no probable cause. They don't know you were driving," Clayton attorney Bevis Schock tells Daily RFT. "This is just another classic case of the city screwing the poor man. People miss court dates because they have jobs -- they're living hand-to-mouth and simply can't make it to court. Now the city is going to fine them $500? That's the rent."

Kara Bowlin, press secretary for Mayor Francis Slay, says the law was not made specifically to address red-light cameras but was instead crafted to help shore up the city's budget deficit. She adds that most people won't be fined $500. "Most fines will actually be $100.50," writes Bowlin in an email to Daily RFT. "That's $50 for failure to appear and $50.50 for court costs. That fine is still lower than many municipalities."

Schock, meanwhile, encourages anyone who gets fined from the city for failure to appear on a red-light camera ticket to give him a call.

"Here's what I tell my clients when they first get one of these tickets: 'If you hold a position of public trust -- ie. you're going to face a Senate confirmation hearing or something -- then just go ahead an pay these things. If not, wad them up and pitch them in the wastebasket."

Hat tip to KMOV, which aired a similar story on this earlier this week.


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