Last week, the Missouri Court of Appeals upheld a St. Louis County red-light camera law, stating that the red-light camera law in the St. Louis suburb of Creve Coeur, Missouri does not violate the due process rights of vehicle owners and does not contradict state law.
A St. Louis County vehicle owner challenged the municipal ordinance after she received a red-light camera ticket in Creve Coeur in 2009.
Missouri red-light camera tickets are issued to vehicle owners when a camera mounted in a traffic intersection captures a photograph of a vehicle that is present in an intersection when the traffic light turns red. The vehicle owner then receives a red-light camera ticket in the mail and is fined $100, regardless of whether or not he was the person driving the car at the time. A red-light camera ticket is essentially a very expensive parking ticket, because it is a non-moving violation which does not cause points to be added to the vehicle owner’s driving record.
The attorney for the St. Louis County vehicle owner who challenged the red-light camera law argued that the Creve Coeur municipal ordinance contradicts a Missouri law that requires points to be added to a person’s driving record when he is convicted of a moving violation.
However, a violation of the Creve Coeur red-light camera law is not a moving violation, and no points are assessed against the vehicle owner’s driving record. The Creve Coeur municipal ordinance does not prohibit running a red light, which is a moving violation; instead, it prohibits a vehicle being in an intersection when the traffic light is red.
In its 14-page opinion, the Missouri Court of Appeals ruled that the Creve Coeur red-light camera law does not contradict state law because the language of the ordinance indicates that the city of Creve Coeur intended that a violation of the ordinance be classified as a non-moving violation and that the liability for a violation should be imposed on the vehicle owner, not the driver.
The vehicle owner also challenged the red-light camera law on the grounds that it violated her constitutional right to procedural due process, arguing that due process requires that a police officer must have probable cause to believe that the person to whom he issues a traffic ticket is the driver of the vehicle and not just the owner of the vehicle.
But the Court stated, “Missouri law provides that a municipal ordinance can impose liability on a vehicle owner if another person parks or operates the vehicle in violation of the ordinance.”
The Court ruled that the red-light camera law does not violate the vehicle owner’s right to due process because it is a civil ordinance, not a criminal law, and civil ordinances “need not provide the heightened procedural protections required by the Fifth, Sixth, and Eighth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution.”
The attorney for the St. Louis County vehicle owner who challenged the red-light camera law says he intends to appeal the Missouri Court of Appeals’ decision.
Read the Missouri Court of Appeals’ full opinion here: http://www.thenewspaper.com/rlc/docs/2011/mo-creve.pdf
To learn more about Missouri traffic law, go to our traffic law resources page for links to information regarding Missouri speeding tickets, points, Missouri driver’s licenses, courts, and other traffic-related issues.