St. Louis' Red-Light Camera Ordinance Officially Declared Void

redlightnick.jpg
Buh-bye!
Updated at 9:45 a.m. with response from city counselor Patti Hageman.

A St. Louis Circuit Court judge last week officially struck down the city's red-light camera ordinance, effectively voiding any outstanding or new citations issued by the city.

In a ruling February 17, Judge Mark Neill upheld a partial judgment he made last May that found the city improperly enacted its red-light camera ordinance without enabling legislation from the Missouri legislature. Over the past nine months, the judge heard nothing from the city that would change his initial opinion from last spring.

St. Louis attorneys had argued that they did not need state approval because the cameras were a legitimate exercise of police power related to the health, safety, peace, comfort and general welfare of city inhabitants. But Judge Neill noted that the cameras do "nothing to regulate and control the streets or traffic" (ie. prevent accidents and improve safety) "and the city presented no evidence to the contrary."

Judge Neill also found that the city violated due process in the way it mailed citations to those whose cars were photographed running red lights. Recently, the Missouri Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the St. Louis suburb of Creve Coeur in a similar lawsuit questioning due process. But Judge Neill noted in his ruling last week that the case in St. Louis was different from the one in Creve Coeur. While both cities claim their red-light cameras citations are "civil" in nature, the Creve Coeur ordinance specifically states that violators cannot face jail time if they ignore their citation. St. Louis' ordinance has no such clause.

Moreover, the St. Louis citations do not offer car owners a clear way to defend themselves. Noted Judge Neill:
MarkNeill.jpg
Judge Mark Neill
"[T]here is no summons or court date provided with the notice of violation and the notice does not convey to the recipient the right to contest the notice of violation except where 'the vehicle was being operated by a person other than the owner or the vehicle or the license plate captured by the automated traffic control system was stolen.'

The court finds that the city's red light ordinance violates procedural due process and plaintiffs are entitled to summary judgment."

The case was first filed two years ago when lead plaintiff Alexa Smith and others protested the citations they received in the mail. Smith's attorney, Russell Watters, initially sought a $10 million judgment from the city, based on the estimated 10,000 people at the time who'd paid the $100 fine for having their cars caught on film running a red light.

But in a win for the city, Judge Neill ruled that Smith and others were not entitled to a refund of their citation because they gave it up voluntarily. Neill further dismissed Smith's claims of "unjust enrichment" on behalf of the city for collecting fines from the cameras. Neill also struck down (sort of) the plaintiff's request for a permanent injunction that would prevent the city from enforcing its red-light ordinance.

Neill reasoned that since the ordinance has been declared void, it cannot be enforced. Therefore there is no need for the injunction.

The city says it plans to appeal Neill's order.

"Friday's ruling has no impact on the current operation of the St. Louis City's red light safety camera program. We had been waiting for a final judgment from the trial court so that we could appeal, and we now have that," said city counselor Patti Hageman in a statement emailed to Daily RFT. "We believe Missouri law is clear that Missouri cities, including St. Louis, have the right to enact red light safety ordinances such as this one, and we look forward to bringing this case to the appellate courts."

Continue to the next page to view a copy of Neill's entire ruling.

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26 comments
keke
keke

We got a ticket notice through the national rental company today, that we run the red-light according to the camera and it  was dated on 2/15. Now rental company wants 30$ for processing and the we are reminded being responsible for the $100 ticket. What happens if we don't pay as it was ruled illegal. We were visiting friends' and is not able to travel if they summoned us to the court. 

HMC77
HMC77

I also recently received a collection notice for a citation I contested via the city's form over three years ago.  I affirmed that I was not the driver and included a letter as well that stated this along with some helpful reminders about my constitutional rights.  I never heard back from the city.  Now over three years later, I get this collection notice.  Oh, and by the way, I now live in another state.  Did they ever hear of due process?    Not to mention the program has now been ruled illegal.  It is unreal.

nicholas.kasperson
nicholas.kasperson

well I just got a court summons for one of these $100 tickets... if they want to send me to jail it will just end up costing them more of the tax revenue.  I don't understand why they are bothering still with the cams and the mailing of the citations etc if this has been ruled a VOID law.  :-/  lame.

0845 numbers
0845 numbers

A backpack is the obvious choice if you have quite a lot of gear to travel with, but requires consideration of where you can store it while shooting.

Richluter1963
Richluter1963

i got one of these stupid tickets with a court date in the mail today..... no one at city hall will talk to me 

ThomasandTracy Mathews
ThomasandTracy Mathews

 

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TheWebsters 3rd Edition New International  Dictionary defines “include” as

Include:To shut up: CONFINE, ENCLOSE, BOUND

 

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Toconfine within, hold as in an inclosure, take in, attain, shut up, contain,inclose, comprise, comprehend, embrace, involve…

 

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Toconfine within, hold as in an inclosure, take in, attain, shut up, contain,inclose, comprise, comprehend, embrace, involve…

jcwconsult
jcwconsult

In almost every case, safer and longer yellow intervals on the lights will reduce violations by MORE than ticket cameras.  Ticket cameras are REVENUE programs, NOT safety programs.  See the science on our website and fight for ALL ticket cameras to be banned nationwide.  James C. Walker, National Motorists Association, www.motorists.org, Ann Arbor, MI

Gillooly
Gillooly

If you opted to pay your ticket in lieu of fighting it at a hearing, then you did so voluntarily.

DiegoHenry
DiegoHenry

The cameras (indirectly) block emergency vehicles -because cars stopped at a camera hesitate to get out of the way! Other sideeffects: Rearenders, local $$$ sent to Oz, AZ or Goldman-Sachs, where it won'tcome back, and tourists and shoppers driven away.

Worse, a false expectation of safety, because camerascan't stop the guys who cause the accidents, the real late runners. (If camerasworked, camera sellers wouldn't have the crash videos they supply to the media.)

Want safety, no side effects?

To cut car/pedestrian accidents, train your kids (andyourself) not to step out just 'cuz the walk sign came on.

To cut nuisance running (a fraction of a second late),lengthen the yellows. It's cheap to do so can be done all over town.

The reason the dangerous real late (multiple seconds)runs can't be stopped by the mere presence of a camera is because the runnerwon't know (a tourist) or won't remember (a distracted or impaired"local") that there's a camera up ahead.  They're not doing iton purpose! To cut these real late runs, improve the visual cues that say,"Intersection ahead." Florida's DOT found that better pavementmarkings (paint!) cut running by up to 74%. Make the signal lights bigger, addbackboards, and put the poles on the NEAR side of the corner. Put brighterbulbs in the street lights at intersections. Put up lighted name signs for thecross streets.

Who needs cameras and their side effects?

Ma Stratus
Ma Stratus

Those jerks made me pay $100 on 2 seperate occasions! I want my $$$ back! It was NOT given up voluntarily.

Guy
Guy

 QUESTION:  I have 3 of those red light tickets $100 each, and its been about 2ish years unpaid. But a few weeks ago, I got a letter from "Linebarger Goggan Blair & Sampson, LLP" about how the courts have hired them to collect the money...

DO it still have to pay the 300 bucks!?

Matt Hay
Matt Hay

That quote from Patti reminds me of Baghdad Bob, the Former Iraqi Mis-Information Minister....I am sure they look forward to the Appeal........if they are relying on Nottebrok, they might want to re-read the ruling. The City's ordinance is fundamentally different. I understand her job is to spin it, but why not just be honest for once and say, "Yeah, we knew it was not authorized by state law, and so did ATS, but we couldn't pass up a quick buck, and we are sovereign, so we figured we would enjoy it while it lasted, since we have a license to steal" and save the good citizens of St. Louis the fees of a losing campaign, but sure, affirm this ruling as precedent in the higher courts. I am sure ATS will thank you for it.

kitkat
kitkat

I didn't give mine up voluntarily, my parents opened the ticket I got in the mail, paid for it, and bitched at me for hours at end about being irresponsible and going to jail and stuff when I was gonna contest the ticket.

Well, good for them that they're not giving any refund.

Jennifer
Jennifer

The ruling is clearly right from a technical point of view about the enrichment issue, but it's really hard to explain how, in plain language, people who are ticketed by the City under an illegal traffic camera system paid their fines "voluntarily."

Matt Hay
Matt Hay

High in the 60's and the Red Light Scamera Ordinance is voided with a solid, and very clear opinion from Judge Mark Neill. What a beautiful day! I know there were a lot of influential powers leaning on Judge Neill to punt on this one, and I just wanted to publicly thank him for sticking by his guns, and upholding the rule of law. As it stands now, Iowa and Missouri are the only 2 states in the US with these systems in operation that are not specifically allowed under statute, and Iowa is well in their way to banning them entirely. The Appeal should be interesting. Maybe the Judge Dowd, who is the cousin of a Red Light Camera Lobbyist (Ed Dowd), will not be on the panel. Not sure how that appear of conflict of interest did not spur him to remove himself from the Nottebrok panel.

Matt Hay
Matt Hay

Nope. Even without this ruling, you did not have to pay. As Judge Neill said, it is "voluntary" and a "void ordinance." They threaten to put it on your credit, but truth is, they cannot. If it were me, I would recycle them.

guest
guest

Why do you think that it is ok to run under red light?

Matt Hay
Matt Hay

Agreed. If the Mob did the same thing, they would call it extortion. It is about as voluntary as a store owner handing over protection money to Salvatore, while Salvatore is holding a baseball bat with 3 of his "associates" in front of your store. 

Barnet Fagel
Barnet Fagel

Matt, Chicago starting put in their 387 camera system three years before the state passed a law, under home rule exemption as they tell it.

Gene
Gene

Shred the paper they used to print them and put them back into the return envelope provided by "Linebarger Goggan Blair & Sampson, LLP".  They will have to pay the postage on that every time you do it.

Gene
Gene

Does innocent until proven guilty ring any bells?  Kitkat's parents should have allowed their child to contest that ticket.  It would have been a far more extensive and higher quality lesson than any school could provide a kid - or any amount of time spent "parenting" about it.

Matt Hay
Matt Hay

We call those "Charter Cities" in Missouri, and Judge Neill's ruling specifically states that even Charter Cities cannot pass ordinances which conflict with Missouri Statute, and that in this case, prescribing a different penalty, which is less than statute requires, is a direct conflict.

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