Judge Finds St. Louis, MO's Red Light Camera Ordinance Invalid, Orders Halt Of Ticket Enforcement

from the sure-to-be-followed-shortly-by-handwringing-over-'lost'-revenue dept

Another red light camera company is in trouble, this time in St. Louis, MO, where a judge has just invalidated the city's red light camera ordinance. American Traffic Solutions (whose legal issues we've detailed here previously) has just had its camera system kicked to the curb as a result of some questionable moves it made during a recent lawsuit.

A St. Louis judge issued an order Tuesday that invalidates the city's red-light camera ordinance.

Circuit Judge Steven Ohmer wrote in the order that the city is prohibited from attempting to enforce the ordinance, sending violation notices, processing payments or sending collection letters relating to the tickets.
So what prompted Ohmer to shut down the system? Well, the tickets that were central to the case, which were over a year old at the point of the suit's filing, were dismissed almost immediately after the lawsuit was filed. Why the sudden show of largesse?
Those named in the suit — including the city, Mayor Francis Slay, Police Chief Sam Dotson and American Traffic Solutions Inc., which operates the cameras — had argued to dismiss it. Some of the defendants said the claims were moot because the tickets had been dismissed and that the petitioners lacked standing because they were not hurt by the ordinance.
Ohmer didn't let this transparent attempt to dodge a legal battle go unnoticed.
"Here, it is clear that the City dismissed the Petitioners' tickets for the sole reason of avoiding an injunction in this matter, which the Court was poised to enter following the November hearing," he wrote.
Nearly every other claim made by the defendants was rebuffed by Judge Ohmer. The defendant's argued the plaintiffs had other venues to pursue their claims, like the municipal court, but a recent decision found that this court didn't provide adequate remedy for their claims. The defendants also argued the two filers didn't meet the requirements for a class action lawsuit. Judge Ohmer pointed out that the pair satisfied the "class action" stipulations because the ordinance affected other citizens.

The key element found to be in violation of state law is the fact that ATS' cameras (like all traffic enforcement cameras) presume the registered owner of the vehicle is the driver. This common aspect becomes even more problematic when the ticketed person has very limited avenues for recourse, which also unfortunately tends to be the case with automated enforcement. (This is also one of several problems with the recently introduced legislation that would allow Oklahoma police officers to issue traffic citations without leaving their vehicles.)

This combination of factors has led some traffic camera companies to basically convert their enforcement systems into purely voluntary operations. As the article notes, another Missouri city's council members recently voted unanimously to not enforce red light camera tickets. The camera system will be allowed to keep running and issuing citations but the city and the red light camera company won't pursue those who ignore tickets and will erase fines for anyone who contests their citation. Feeling safer yet, drivers?

Filed Under: red light camera, st. louis
Companies: american traffic solutions


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  1. icon
    Mason Wheeler (profile), 14 Feb 2014 @ 4:41pm

    My uncle lives in the DC area. I saw him at Thanksgiving last year, and the subject of traffic cameras came up, and here's what he had to say on the subject:

    You guys here [Seattle area, which according to insurance company records has some of the most civilized drivers in the country] can't even imagine how bad it is out there. Like, people going out in the middle of an intersection when the light's green but the entire block in front of them is stacked up, and if you don't do that--if you try to keep the intersection clear, like the law says--they'll honk their horns at you and then drive around you and stop in the middle of the intersection. Stupid crap like that happens all the time.

    And now they're putting up these traffic cameras, and these idiot drivers are all getting mad at all the tickets they're getting. I know one guy, drives like a total maniac, and he's gotten something like 40 tickets from those cameras, and he just flips out with each one because he thinks he's not doing anything wrong.


    Having recently moved from Seattle, where the drivers are generally well-behaved and civilized, even in heavy traffic, to Los Angeles, where traffic is just as bad as anything in DC as near as I can tell, I'm all for these cameras if they can hold the idiot drivers around me accountable and maybe even take a few repeat offenders off the road before they end up killing someone.

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