Missouri Supreme Court to decide on camera tickets

On Tuesday, the Missouri Supreme Court heard arguments on three separate cases regarding speeding and red light cameras. The cases involved red light camera tickets out of St. Louis City and St. Peters and speeding camera tickets out of Moline Acres. These three cases hit slightly different issues regarding the legality of camera tickets. The ordinances from these jurisdictions were overturned by lower courts that deemed them in violation of state law.

St. Louis City takes a picture of the license plate and issues the ticket to the owner of the vehicle. Proponents indicate that the over 50 intersection cameras free up the police and make the community safer. Police Chief Sam Dotson reasons that the cameras mean more officers are out patrolling neighborhoods instead of enforcing traffic laws. The opponents argue that the owner is only operating the vehicle 70-80% of the time. The onus is put on the owner to prove that s/he is not the driver instead of requiring the City Prosecutors to prove that a violation had occurred. While the St. Louis City tickets were overturned, the judge put a stay on the order to allow for the appeal. City is still issuing tickets; however, all fines collected are being placed in an escrow account pending the decision of the Missouri Supreme Court.

The cameras in St. Peters show the license plate and the driver. Pursuant to the attorneys for the city of St. Peters, the tickets are issued to the operator not necessarily the owner. These tickets do not assess points upon payment. The lower courts found the ordinance in violation of the Missouri Law that requires points to be assessed for a moving violation.

Moline Acres uses speeding cameras. Carl Lumley, attorney for Moline Acres, argues that the owners are ticketed for allowing their vehicles to speed. The citation is for not supervising their vehicle correctly not for speeding. Owners can attempt to prove that they did not give permission to the driver to operate the vehicle. Once again this places the burden of proof on the owner instead of the Prosecutors.

The legislature could have approved a proposal earlier this year that would have set forth a legal framework, but the proposed bills did not pass the May session. The Supreme Court decision will hopefully settle the uncertainty that currently follows on the camera tickets.  The decision will hopefully come out by the end of the year.

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