St. Louis cities sue to block limits on traffic ticket revenue

Twelve St. Louis North County municipals sued the state of Missouri last
week over a new law that limits their revenue from traffic violation fees
and fines.

The law, known as Senate Bill 5 and was passed in response to the civil
unrest after the Michael Brown shooting, goes into effect January 2016. St.
Louis County municipals are prevented from receiving more than 12 ½ percent
of its general operating revenue from traffic cases. By contrast, cities
outside St. Louis County are limited to 20 percent, which was reduced from
30 percent.

The plaintiffs are Cool Valley, Normandy, Glen Echo Park, Bel-Ridge,
Bel-Nor, Northwoods, Pagedale, Velda Village Hills, Uplands Park, Vinita
Park, Wellston and Moline Acres. Attorney David H. Pittinsky, of
Philadelphia, filed the plaintiffs’ lawsuit in Cole County.

The lawsuit argues the Legislature and governor acted unconstitutionally by
treating St. Louis County municipalities differently from other areas of the

The lawsuit argues that the new law violates the state’s Hancock Amendment
because it places a mandate on a city without any way to fund it.
Furthermore, plaintiffs argue the Legislature and the Governor acted
unconstitutionally because St. Louis County is treated differently from
other parts of the state.

Aside from limiting how much revenue can be derived from court fines and
fees, the new law limits fines and bans failure-to-appear charges for
missing a court date, as well as jail sentences for most minor traffic

The new law forces cities to provide annual financial reports to the state
auditor and a municipal judge to certify the court is following the new
requirements. The penalty for not complying includes losing sales tax
revenue, the transfer of all pending court cases to circuit court, and even

The law also forces police departments to achieve accreditation and to
develop written policies for use of force and pursuit. The Missouri Supreme
Court is presently in the process of developing rules regarding conflicts of
interest between judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys and other court
system personnel.

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