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.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?
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.
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?