Thursday, February 23, 2012
Missouri: Court Rules Red Light Cameras Unconstitutional
Circuit court judge rules St. Louis, Missouri red light camera program is unconstitutional and void.
A Missouri circuit court issued a final judgment Friday finding the red light camera program in St. Louis violated the Constitution. Circuit Judge Mark H. Neill reconfirmed his finding from May that the city's program was illegal because the state legislature has never authorized photo ticketing. St. Louis had asked Neill to reconsider and argued that charter cities did not need the legislature's permission to use cameras. He did not buy their argument.
"A city, even a charter city, is a creature of the state and, as such, has no inherent police power," Judge Neill ruled. "The only police power a city has is that conferred to it by the state... The court does not believe that the ordinance has a substantial and rational relation to the health, safety, peace, comfort and general welfare of the inhabitants of St. Louis. This court concludes that without specific enabling legislation passed by the General Assembly of the state of Missouri, the ordinance is void."
The other fatal flaw in the program was the lack of due process. St. Louis city ordinance authorizing the use of red light cameras issued tickets against drivers, not vehicle owners, accused of violating the city's "steady red indication" ordinance. The private company American Traffic Solutions mailed out tickets that did not contain a court date or a notice that the citation could be challenged on grounds other than someone else was driving or the car had been stolen.
"The United States Supreme Court has consistently held that some form of hearing is required before an individual is finally deprived of a property interest," Neill wrote. "The court finds that the city's red light ordinance violates procedural due process."
The city has continued to allow its red light camera vendor to issue citations, despite the ruling. Judge Neill made it clear that this is unacceptable.
"A void ordinance, of course, cannot be enforced," Neill wrote. "As such, the court assumes that the city will not attempt to enforce the ordinance if and when a judgment declaring the ordinance void becomes final."
The city intends to appeal.
CLICK HERE TO READ THE COURT'S OPINION