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Judge Strikes Red-Light Law in St. Louis

Though near-by, the ruling applies to St. Louis city only.

A St. Louis Circuit Court judge last week struck down St. Louis city's red-light camera law.

Judge Mark Neill, in the 22nd Judicial Court of St. Louis, in a ruling on Feb. 17, upheld a partial judgment he made last May that found the city improperly enacted its red-light camera ordinance.

The Riverfront Times reported that the decision voids any outstanding or new citations issued by the city, though Neill also ruled that those who had already paid a fine are not entitled to a refund because they gave it up voluntarily.

A Jan. 17 Arnold Patch article reported that the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission had on red-light camera installations but issued a new policy on how the cameras would be enforced.

At the Jan. 23 meeting of the Jefferson County Council, Councilman Bob Boyer introduced a measure

Arnold has had red-light cameras since 2005.

A MoDOT report showed a 370 percent increase in total wrecks at the Richardson/Vogel intersection, from 14 prior to installation to 80 afterward. At the intersection of Highway 141 and Astra Way, there was a 90 percent increase, to 69 wrecks from 36. Wrecks at U.S. 61, also called Jeffco Boulevard, and Highway 141 increased to 119 from 106.

Only at the Jeffco Boulevard and Rockport Road intersection did the number of wrecks decrease to eight from nine during the same period, MoDOT reported.

Matt Hay February 22, 2012 at 07:26 PM
Great article. Up until this point, it has seemed like The Patch had been very selective about printing anything negative about the program, and had in effect been the PR piece for the City. To add a bit of color, Judge Neill that the ordinance in St. Louis City violates Article 10 of the Missouri Constitution, with regard to due process and the way it was implemented in the City of St. Louis. Legal scholars can argue whether or not the ordinance in the City of Arnold bears the same procedural defects. I would argue that it does. More importantly, was Judge Neill's ruling in Count VII, which is what distinguishes this from the Appellate Nottebrok decision, and why this is directly applicable to Arnold, if and when affirmed. The Judge ruled that these ordinances are not a "rule of the road" under the City's statutory police powers, and instead are merely a new way to prosecute a crime which already exists in statute (violation of steady red indication). As such, no city, charter or otherwise, as the power to draft any law which conflicts with state statute. Creve Coeur has a strict liability "parking in an intersection" ordinance, whereas Arnold has a "red light running" ordinance, like the City of St. Louis. The City of St. Louis's ordinance was in fact patterned after Arnold's, no it is premature for anyone to assume this does not have major implications for Arnold, and other cities using the systems.
Doug Miner February 22, 2012 at 07:53 PM
Great comment, Matt. You go well into the implications this could have to Arnold. Thanks!
Oscar Acosta February 23, 2012 at 03:34 PM
Are the MoDOT numbers you are referencing per year averages, or the total number of accidents since the lights were put in and the total number before? I was just wondering if you had a link to the MoDOT statistics you reference in the article or if you could be more clear in the article. Thanks.
Doug Miner February 23, 2012 at 03:36 PM
Thanks for the question, good one. I'll check.
Matt Hay February 23, 2012 at 03:49 PM
Here you go, here is a link to the raw MoDOT report data (I had requested from MoDOT at the time): http://www.scribd.com/doc/46882681/MODOT-Red-Light-Camera-Enforcement-Study-Raw-Data the percent changes are for the 3 year period prior to install versus the 3 year period after.
Doug Miner February 23, 2012 at 03:55 PM
Thanks, Matt. I made the mention of the report in the article into a link to the study.
Bill Moritz February 24, 2012 at 01:48 AM
Matt, Please present your argument as to why Arnold's Ordinance is also unenforceable and voidable. This interests meas I want to do the right thing. In which way or ways were the cases presented in the Missouri Court of Appeals and Federal Court for the Eastern District upheld yet in your legal opinion contain procedural defects? They were found to not violate state statutes and not violate constitutional freedoms though you purported that they did so. I certainly do not want to continue to do anything that is wrong and would value your legal opinion. The ordinance was put in place before you and I were elected to the council. You did not repeal the ordinance when you were a member of the Arnold City Council with a clear majority so please tell us how the ordinance is just not right and what you did to toss it out or not renew it.
Matt Hay February 24, 2012 at 02:07 AM
The filing in Brunner v. City of Arnold clarifies the issues. The answer lay in Count VII in Judge Neill's ruling. The cameras are not a traffic law, they are merely a means to enforce an existing law, which is the violation of a steady red indication. Mo Statute classifies such a violation as moving, and provides for a uniform penalty under statute. This is why Judge Neill concluded that St. Louis's ordinance was not only not supported by statute, but in fact, conflicted with statute. The difference is, Creve Couer has a law very different than Arnold's. They anticipated this issue, and knew that there was a conflict, so instead, while they call it a "Red Light Camera Ordinance" it is actually a strict liability parking ordinance, thus the violation is not violating the steady red indication which is governed by statute (Moving violation), it is instead "the presence of the vehicle in the intersection while the light is red." As for my efforts, I froze my rear off and invested my funds and time, while giving up my holiday in obtaining almost 1,000 signatures of registered voters in an attempt to force YOU to vote on the issue, so you could instead throw them away and disregard their desires. Your buddies paid for that. I also tried numerous times to bring the matter to vote. When I was successful, the council just disregarded the vote, to this day, I still do not understand how that was not binding. Remember when you said, "If we get rid of them, who do we fire?" All about $
Matt Hay February 24, 2012 at 02:27 AM
So, to address your questions specifically, the Federal Court rules on Federal Issues, not Missouri Constitutional or Statutory issues. Thus, because of the 10th Amendment, the Federal Court ruling mean nothing (Also note, it was a Civil RICO case, and the Judge specifically stated in the opinion that there were obvious state issues which seemed apparent to him, but he did not see a Federal issue existing after the claims of immunity were exhausted). As for the Nottebrok case, as I outline above, Creve Coeur saw the defect in Arnold's ordinance and tried to work around it, by creating, "being present in the intersection when the light is red", which they argue is not moving because being present does not involve "motion." it is also strict liability, which Arnold's is not, meaning essentially, in Creve Coeur, your daughter could get pulled over by a police officer in your car, while violating a steady red indication at a photo enforced intersection, and she would receive a citation from the Officer, worth 2 points on her license, and you then could receive a citation in the mail, made out to you, for your vehicle being "present" in their intersection. Thus 2 people receive 2 different violations for the same action. As you can read from the Article, Judge Neill ruled there was a Due Process Violation of Article 10 of the Missouri Constitution as well as a direct conflict of Statute, which is exactly what ATS's Attorneys told them, in the letter I have that you denied existed
Brian February 24, 2012 at 05:20 AM
Mr. Moritz states that he wants to do the right thing. The right thing in this case is to tell American Traffic Solutions to pack up their cameras and leave town. We don't need to entrust public safety to cameras, we don't need to allow a company that circumvents democratic processes to operate here and we don't need the lure of easy money to trump proper traffic engineering. Show ATS the MODOT report of increased accidents, show them that longer ambers have greatly reduced violations, chide them for ignoring voter referendums in other parts of the country, tell them their product doesn't effectively increase public safety and give them a deadline to remove the cameras. That is the right thing to do at this point.
Bill Moritz February 24, 2012 at 04:00 PM
Who are we going to fire? That is twice you have attributed that to me and it would be nice if you showed me when and where that took place or stop using it. An ATS letter I deny existed? Do you dream this stuff up? You know that is a false statement.
Matt Hay February 24, 2012 at 04:30 PM
This Letter: http://www.scribd.com/doc/37186680/Stinson-Morrison-Hecker-admits-Red-Light-Cameras-in-Missouri-contravene-State-Statute You called me a liar on TOPIX and said I was in possession of no such document and that it did not exist, I then sent you a copy.....do you deny that as well? I am certain I still have the e-mail where you ranted about it if I dig..... As to your statement, you deny making it? You said something I recall to the effect of, "If we get rid of the cameras, who then do we fire?" implying that the City relies on the revenue to cover staff costs. It was said when we were discussing the future of the systems, the discussion may have been in closed session. I recall thinking that I could not help thinking about your apparent conflict of interest given your wife's employment.....you can deny it all you like, but it was not said in my presence alone if I recall. You have expressed similar sentiments to others prior to that as well, and I know this, because they expressed their disappointment in you to me.
Bob Smith March 12, 2012 at 06:23 PM
So the city falsely collected fines for "voluntary" payment when individuals were threatened with court proceedings, warrants and jail time. I want my money back with interest for the illegal blackmail of proceeds. I also want the prosecutor who signed the threatening letter, which by the way stated it was the 2nd and final notice when indeed it was the 1st such received, prosecuted for illegal use of the mail, extorsion and intimidation. Seems only fair...
Bill Moritz March 16, 2012 at 07:41 PM
There are two t's in extortion. Where were you threatened with a warrant or jail time? I would like to see that.
Matt Hay March 16, 2012 at 08:00 PM
Look at the Brunner filing against Arnold, the supplementals have clear examples where the citations issued state that a "Warrant may be issued for your arrest" if you do not pay your $100 or show up at your pre-trial. This is the same computer "glitch" that Matt Unrein has "corrected" 3 times, but yet it keeps happening. The Post Dispatch has even covered it. So what it is Bill, was this wording intentional, or was it a "recurring glitch" that is temporarily corrected when the media covers it, and then a month latter changes right back? See for reference: http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/metro/violators-caught-on-camera-in-arnold-mistakenly-threatened-with-arrest/article_17d3b118-89eb-5f2e-8230-1bc1d4b300d5.html Can a warrant be issued for your arrest if you ignore the ticket?
Bill Moritz March 17, 2012 at 01:29 PM
Mr. Hay you are well aware there is no threat of arrest with the Arnold red light camera ordinance and no threat of arrest with the collection notices. I was also annoyed with the past errors associated with the tickets. I hope that they remain in the past. The ordinance and contract were in place before I got here. I voted to renew the contract in part because the errors were corrected. You do not like the RLC ordinance and I get that. We all get that. I concede that you and will not agree on the use of cameras at these intersections. My only request is that we agree that when facing a red light it is not okay for a motorist to enter the intersection and endanger others who have entered it lawfully. I heard on the news that the Wentzville board of alderman took a poll not to renew the contract with their red light camera provider, Redflex. It expires at the end of 2013. I called there and asked about it. The current board stated that they did not see a significant improvement in the accident numbers with them installed at their two intersections. Their poll was to let the contract expire over the objection of the police chief and mayor. There are two local elections between now and the end of the contract and the board chose to make this statement now. When you were a member of and arguably the leader of the majority on the Arnold City Council why was such a token measure not taken here on what is fairly well known of your position on the use of these cameras?
Matt Hay March 19, 2012 at 12:02 AM
Such a token measure was taken, the very same measure in fact. Do you not recall? It was on the front page of the Leader. As for running a red light, you and I have no disagreement there. Are you sure the errors were "fixed"? there are 3 examples of this same error over the course of a year. How did this same error continue to recur? Could you please find out and let us know? Also, what happens if one just throws the "Notice of Violation" away and disregards it?
Dan Hyatt March 19, 2012 at 08:01 PM
What is often missed is a couple of points.. 1. I beleive the court rely's heavily on hearsay evidence...they believe the camera company's sales and marketing information as gospel. 2. The Cities actually violate state and federal engineering guidelines on setting up the camera intersections....see MUTCD US Department of Transportation -what is a properly set up traffic control device and what is not... one line indicates that an improperly configured traffic control device (red light) causes excessive violations....and recommends several engineering fixes including properly setting the yellow light (not to the minimum of the posted speed limit). And yes, it has been long established that most fatal/serious injury red light accidents either had nothing to do with the red light (turning left on a green into oncoming traffic), or was in excess of 3 second violating the red, over 90% of the citations are for under 2 tenths of a second.
Dan Hyatt March 19, 2012 at 08:10 PM
Matt, You are partially correct on Creve Coure. Contact me (you have my information). My court summons actually indicates I violated public safety...this arrived 8 months after the alleged violation. I am starting a yahoogroup PhotoRedLights@yahoogroups.com to gather and share information. While the bogus ticket they mailed me indicated I ran a red light...which in itself defy's the engineering standards regarding the setup of traffic control devices (red lights) agreed upon by all 51 Departments of Transportation in the US (all 50 states and US). I am wondering what is the legality of the Judge issuing the summons to his court, and threatening me with failure to appear when I never promised to appear. I cant wait to get to a computer that will take me to the links....if anyone wants to discuss this with me.
Dan Hyatt March 19, 2012 at 08:13 PM
Look up the Missouri Traffic Commissioners minutes from January 12, 2011 This was where the traffic commissions took a soft stance, but took a stance against these programs... They did not clearly call it out, but Missouri traffic code madates MODOT to invalidate traffic ordinances that it determines to be primarily for revenue generating rather then for safety or to facilitate the flow of traffic... Modot MUST certify the new ordinances (or existing ordinances) to be in compliance with them NOT being for revenue generating.
Dan Hyatt March 19, 2012 at 08:21 PM
Mr. Moritz, I have questions for you. 1. How many fatal/serious injury accidents has your city encountered in the last 5 years as a result of people zipping through the light within 2/10ths of a second of the red. 2. What percent of fatal/serious injury accidents in STL area had the person running a red light for between one tenth and two tenths of a second? (hint almost all are green/green or over 3 seconds) 3. Why does your city write 1000 tickets a month in direct violation of the federal engineering standards adopted by Missouri which mandate re-engineering of the light to eliminate most of the violations...often as simple as adding 1 second to your current yellow setting....easily proved by what percentage of your citatations are under 2/10ths of a second. 4. The camera may have been added before you took the helm, but you are still managing misconfigured red lights CAUSING accidents in order to raise revenue.
Bill Moritz March 19, 2012 at 11:46 PM
1) None - I think the last was six years ago 2) Who knows 3) Not true - The intersections in Arnold are on MoDOT controlled intersections. Arnold has nothing to do with timing of lights at the four intersections. Easily verified. 4) Distracted and/or careless motorists cause the accidents not the MoDOT lights and not the cameras.
Dan Hyatt March 20, 2012 at 06:29 PM
Bill, thank you for your honest answers. That speaks volumes. Unfortunately many will give the PC answers "its about safety" rather then the truthful answers. I have read substantial data from many sources that indicate these photo enforcement programs increase danger and accidents, and since they do nothing to facilitate the flow of traffic, then the only justification left is revenue generating which is the conclusion that MODOT came to on Jan 12, 2011 without any reasonable input from us opposing these techniques. I am all for reasonable attempts to improve safety (making a national speed limit of 25mph would increase safety but is completely unreasonable). But I take exception at actions to raise revenue under the false flag of improving safety.
Ann Asher April 05, 2012 at 04:33 PM
I would like to know if this finding suggests that all red light traffic enforcement cameras are illegal and their citations not enforceable ? St Robert and Waynesville have installed them. I don't like it. I think it is an invasion of privacy. I do think people who are unnerved by the sight of cameras are more likely to make a mistake or slam on their brakes when they should have continued safely through the intersection and leading to accidents. What this article shows is that motorists are better at self regulation than being regulated.

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