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Red-Light Cameras Legal, Court of Appeals Affirms, But Fight Will Continue (UPDATE)

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Kylelovesyou
Update below: The Missouri Court of Appeals has once again ruled that the controversial red-light cameras are legal and that municipalities have a right to regulate traffic in this manner. The decision today -- affirming key parts of a lower court's dismissal -- is tied to a Florissant case challenging the local ordinance.

The takeaway message, according to American Traffic Solutions (ATS), the company that owns and operates the cameras, is that folks with violations have to treat them seriously.

"You can't ignore it," says Jane Dueker, St. Louis-based attorney representing ATS. "If you have arguments about the validity of your citation, you need to go to court and present them. You don't get to just do nothing."

See also: St. Louis Car Crashes Caught On Red-Light Cameras (VIDEOS, PHOTOS)

The decision today -- full document on view below -- is another setback for critics of the red-light cameras who allege that these ordinances violate their due process rights and the privilege against self-incrimination. In this Florissant case, the plaintiffs questioned the validity and constitutionality of the cameras, which catch drivers running red lights resulting in a notice of the violation and fine in the mail.

Opponents have long argued that these ordinances are designed to generate revenue with public safety as an afterthought, as Judge Kurt Odenwald of the Missouri Court of Appeals Eastern District notes in today's decision. ATS and the cities that have implemented the cameras, however, argue that these ordinances have a direct, positive impact for traffic safety.

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RFT file photo

"This upholds the legality of these programs. The cities have the authority to do this. It's within their police power," Dueker explains, adding, "You don't get to plead guilty and sue to get your money back."

She adds, "Obviously changing driver behavior is what this program is about."

Florissant has catalogued a massive reduction in violations where cameras are located, she adds.

This decision comes after Florissant and ATS both filed a motion to dismiss the claims of the plaintiffs, Laura Unverferth, Joseph Cusumano and Francis Cusumano. In May of 2012, the trial court did dismiss all of the claims, prompting an appeal from the plaintiffs.

Today, "we affirm the judgment of the trial court dismissing the claims of the Cusumanos because the Cusumanos have an adequate remedy at law in their municipal court proceeding," the judge writes.

In a few other areas, however, the judge reverses the trial court's judgment, effectively sending it back to the lower court for further debate.

Regardless, the company is counting the decision as a win.

"From ATS's point of view, the program gets to go on," Dueker says.

Daily RFT reached out to the attorneys for the plaintiffs today and will update if we hear back.

Earlier this year, we reported on the latest in a similar case in St. Louis where justices for the Missouri Court of Appeals Eastern District unanimously ruled in favor of the city and its red-light cameras.

The city of St. Louis, as we noted in our coverage then, has earned $20.3 million from red-light cameras since the system went into service in 2007. ATS, which is based in Arizona, has taken in an additional $9 million from St. Louis, according to the mayor's office.

Update, 1:23 p.m.: Shortly after publishing this item, Daily RFT heard back from Ryan Keane, attorney for the plaintiffs, who argues that in many ways, the ruling is a win for his clients and that he is hopeful the case will advance to the Missouri Supreme Court.

"This is far from over," he says. "The Missouri Supreme Court is going to have to weigh in. I would be shocked if they don't."

He says of the decision, "It clarifies some issues and muddies others," noting Judge Lawrence Mooney's dissenting opinion.

He says the ruling affirms that he and his clients deserve another chance to make their case. "Overall, we were pretty pleased that the Court of Appeals took a close look at the issues."

Next, he will file a petition for a rehearing on some of the issues in which the appellants lost, he explains.

The biggest victory for his clients, he argues, is the acknowledgement that Florissant's enforcement of the law conflicts with state law.

"Our claims have merit and we deserve the opportunity to explore them further," he says.

Keane adds, "This isn't about safety. This is about money."

Here is a copy of today's opinion:

Unverferth Florissant COA Opinion

Send feedback and tips to the author. Follow Sam Levin on Twitter at @SamTLevin.


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36 comments
jcwconsult
jcwconsult

It is unfortunate that the Appeals Court decided in favor or the predatory red light camera cash register companies and the cities driven by greed to use them.  This decision is NOT in favor of real traffic safety, it is in favor of predatory ticketing of mostly safe drivers for a money grab scam.

With luck the case will reach the State Supreme Court and the judges will decide the case in favor of the people and against the predatory red light camera companies and the greedy cities that use them to fine mostly safe drivers.

James C. Walker, Life Member-National Motorists Association

John Karvas
John Karvas

I totally agree Tony, I certainly hope that the state also installs cameras on the streets as well. This way, if you are loitering the state can send you a $100 ticket. It's the law man, just don't break it! Big Brother keeps us all safe. :)

John Karvas
John Karvas

Seriously, this. Try counting how many second a light without cameras spends on a yellow light versus a light with a camera. Most of the time the camera light is much shorter by at least 2 seconds.

Brian Sieve
Brian Sieve

Gay people can't marry, but big bro can ticket from cameras. Welcome to 1984

Tim Nelson
Tim Nelson

Its simple really, we just need to get red light and speed cameras made illegal by putting it on the Missouri ballot. I'm sure most people would vote to abolish them. How many signatures do we need to petition a spot on the ballot?

billj598
billj598 topcommenter

The Courts and particularly the corrupt Eastern Missouri Court of Appeals have been dead wrong on so many other issues decided by activist Judges and here is yet another example of their complete failure to abide by the clearly stated principles of our freedoms from Government oppression in the Bill of Rights as contained in the U.S. Constitution.  I'll bet money changed hands here to result in this wholly illegal "decision".   

Tom Keightley
Tom Keightley

I got one that said I did not come to a complete stop when making a right turn on red. First, I have eyes and a brain and an extraordinary driving record. Second, the traffic moving in the opposite direction had a left turn arrow so there was no possibility of a collision of any kind. And lastly it's bullsh!t, not paying it.

Christopher Slater
Christopher Slater

Gun control=people control, does not equal violence control. Red light cameras=revenue generator, not safety improvements. Obamacare= bankruptcy, not affordable healthcare.

Ronald Snyder
Ronald Snyder

the money goes to crooks and takes poor peoples money . It does not effect rich people they can run them all day .

Neil Aimaro
Neil Aimaro

We have money to install cameras but no money to install smart lights that would decrease traffic and increase gas mileage? Funny how when it comes to handing out tickets the state has more than enough money to beef up technology but when it's something that can benefit us a whole "Well we just don't have the budget for that kind of stuff."

Nathan B Cromwell
Nathan B Cromwell

they flash even when the light turns from green to yellow so they should be called yellow light cameras and not red light cameras

Paul Hibbard
Paul Hibbard

Just don't pay the tickets. They're more of a suggestion

Phil Janovick
Phil Janovick

Do these tickets get points on or against ones license......??

Phil Janovick
Phil Janovick

Legal......I'll start screaming foul when the cameras are NOT labled........???

gzotta
gzotta

Jane Dueker, St. Louis-based attorney representing ATS says, "Obviously changing driver behavior is what this program is about." Oh REALLY?? Its not about the MONEY?

Matt Hay
Matt Hay

Did Jane Dueker even read the opinion before she was doing her victory lap? Anyone that sees this verdict as a win for ATS is delusional. The irony is, that the court found these conflict with state statute in the very same way Peter Chinn, who is Jane's colleague at Stinson, Morrison, Hecker did in his 2005 White Paper which ATS commissioned on the legality of the systems in Missouri.

Colleen Liebig
Colleen Liebig

I just got a $100 ticket for apparently not coming to a complete stop at a red light. How do they prove that? Based on feedback, it sounds like most people don't pay these tickets. I was also told to get a traffic attorney & it'd be cheaper. So frustrating.

Hayek
Hayek

Is Jane Dueker reading a different opinion? Having an Appeals Court say your ordinance is on conflict with State Law, walking the trial court through the opinion they must reach as a matter of law, and then remanding it is not a win. Granted, some points raised on summary judgement have a different standard, however, the opinion seems unequivocal on the issue of whether State Statute is violated by reclassifying a moving violation as a non-moving municipal ordinance violation. An ordinance which conflicts with statute is void as a matter of law. This means that it is not simply remanded and the trial court can rule as they like. They must find this violates state statute. Peter Chinn of Jane's own law firm, Stinson Morrison Hecker already told ATS this very thing back in 2005. I laugh everytime I hear Jane defend it, I laugh, because their own white paper concluded it was illegal for the very same reason. 

Mark Swain
Mark Swain

they are nothing more than a money grab

Jesda Ulati
Jesda Ulati

ATS is an evil fucking company. FIGHT THEM. They CAUSE ACCIDENTS BY MOTIVATING CITIES TO REDUCE YELLOW LIGHT TIMES TO INCREASE REVENUE, THEREBY REDUCING TIME FOR INTERSECTIONS TO CLEAR AND ENCOURAGING COLLISIONS.

Jake Woodworth
Jake Woodworth

I love the other comments from the people that have not been issued an unlawful ticket by StL or its surrounding counties. Both of the red light tickets that I have been sent state I did not come to a complete and full stop when I was taking a right on red. I will not be paying both of these red light tickets, the city gets enough of my money. Like · Reply · a few seconds ago

Tony Bologna
Tony Bologna

Don't drive illegally and you won't have a problem. It's really simple actually.

billj598
billj598 topcommenter

@Paul Hibbard Paul, unfortunately, if you don't pay them the Fiefdom operating the camera will either issue a bench warrant for your arrest or turn you over to a Collection Agency who will ruin your credit rating.   These robot cameras only make Citizens hate the Government even more but all they can see is the revenue they bring in.  Any B.S. claims that they enhance safety are pure lies.   

Hayek
Hayek

@billj598 544.665(4) RSMo prevents them from issuing a warrant for a failure to appear. They lie and say they can, but the law is not on their side, as the penalty for failing to appear for the offense, cannot exceed that of the offense itself, so if imprisonment is not contemplated in the penalty for the offense (municipal ordinance violation), then it cannot be a possibility for failing to appear, thus no warrant can be issued because this is a "civil violation." If it were criminal, it would be different, but they try to thread the needle, but the good news is the Appellate Court saw right through it. Also, they can send you to "collections" but cannot place on your credit report (though they threaten)

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