St. Louis Red-Light Cameras Are Perfectly Legal, Appellate Court Rules
The Missouri Court of Appeals has reversed a ruling from last year that found St. Louis' red-light-camera ordinance to be in violation of state law.
In a unanimous decision handed down yesterday, all three justices for the Missouri Court of Appeals-Eastern District concluded that St. Louis Circuit Court Judge Mark Neill erred back in February 2012 when he ruled that the city required enabling legislation from the state legislature in order to enforce its red-light-camera ordinance.
"Because the enactment of reasonable traffic regulation is a proper exercise of City's police power, and because City is a constitutional charter city possessing broad authority to enact legislation, we...reverse the trial court's judgment...that the Ordinance conflict with state law," wrote the justices in their 35-page opinion.
The initial court case dates back to 2009 when lead plaintiff Alexa Smith and others sought a class-action suit against St. Louis on grounds that the citations they received from the cameras violated their due process rights and privilege against self-incrimination. The $100 citations arrive in the mail and show an image of a vehicle entering a red light but do not identify the driver.
As Judge Neil noted last year, the wording in the citation made it unclear that the vehicle's owner had any recourse. "[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," wrote Neil, in his opinion that granted the plaintiffs summary judgment for the city violating their right to due process.
Judge Mark Neill
Yesterday, the appellate justices also reversed that ruling, stating that plaintiffs were entitled to raise procedural due process claims in municipal court. But the appellate justices did agree that the citation the city originally mailed respondents was vague and did not comply with mandatory notice requirements -- a violation of Missouri Supreme Court rules that would make the city's ordinance void. That issue is now moot, though, according to Mayor Francis Slay's office, because the city has already changed the language of the citation to conform with the court rules.
The city has maintained throughout the appeal that its red-light-camera system is legal and has continued issuing citations and installing new cameras.
Continue to discover just how much money the city has earned from red-light cameras and whether you need to finally pay up.