Is the St. Louis Red Light Camera Ordinance Valid?

Stop the red light cameras was the message delivered by Judge Neill in his opinion holding that the St. Louis red light camera ordinance was invalid on the grounds that there was no state enabling legislation. Judge Neill, after finding for St. Louis on a litany of issues, concluded that the absence of enabling legislation by the State Missouri precluded St. Louis from enacting a red light camera ordinance used to enforce the law prohibiting the running of red lights.

Stop Running of Red Lights

This case appears to be heading for the Missouri Court of Appeals for resolution. What can we expect? Judge Neill’s opinion is based upon a  rule of law known as Dillon’s Rule which states that a municipal corporation can only exercise those powers granted in express words or those necessarily or fairly implied in or incident to powers expressly granted. These powers must be essential to the declared object and purpose of a corporation and not simply convenient but indispensable. The difficulty with the application of Dillon’s Rule is that St. Louis is a home rule city, which gets its powers directly from the Missouri Constitution. Home Rule Cities have all powers not denied by the Constitution, state law, or by the city’s home rule charter. Obviously, Judge O’Neil’s opinion is based upon an erroneous application of the law and I expect his opinion on this issue would be reversed on appeal.

Appeal Goes To The Eastern District

What about the other 35 communities that have adopted red light camera ordinances that are not home rule cities? The court’s opinion also overlooked section 304.120 .2 (1) and (3), which provides that municipalities may by ordinance make additional rules of the road or traffic regulations to meet their needs and traffic conditions and require vehicles to stop before crossing certain designated streets and boulevards. These provisions of State law clearly authorize municipalities to make additional rules of the road so even if an appellate court concludes that Dillon’s Rule applies the state has already authorized municipal corporations  to make additional rules of the road. The power to enact red light camera ordinances can reasonably be  implied from this grant of power. Despite my optimism that the decision by Judge Neill will be reversed local communities need to be very concerned because of the scope of the issues, the depth of the opposition and the importance of preserving the ability to develop innovative solutions to the running of red lights that cause death and serious injuries.

In the meantime some communities decided to delay enactment of a red light camera ordinance while ordinances in other communities are put in doubt. This is extremely unfortunate since as noted in my earlier post there is strong evidence that red light camera ordinances reduce serious accidents at intersections where there are traffic signals. In the meantime local communities will have to weather the storm from opponents to red light camera ordinances. Stay tuned.

Howard Wright @ 2011

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8 Responses to Is the St. Louis Red Light Camera Ordinance Valid?

  1. Matt Hay says:

    Except you are mistaken about what a Red Light Camera Ordinance is and is not. That is the crux of the issue here and is something completely overlook and seem to take a face value, however, the veracity of that premise is critical. If you assume that these are “Traffic Ordinances and rules of the road” you may have an argument, however, these are not. What these are not, is actual traffic ordinances, ie. violating a steady red signal is already an ordinance violation, and in fact, it is a Class C Misdemeanor under 302 RSMo. This is quite literally the very same malum in se action, regardless of what you call it. It is the evidence which is admitted in the proceeding that is actually the only actual difference (if you out aside the disregard for the quasi-criminal nature of ALL ordinance violations under Missouri Supreme Court Rules of Procedure.) That being said, lets speak about what these really are. They are changes in the laws of evidence by rule. Changes to the laws of evidence can be made by no other body, home rule subdivision, or even the MO Supreme Court, apart from the General Assembly. Mo Const. Art V gives the General Assembly alone this authority. Thus, devoid of a specific grant of authority from the legislature, this is indeed a violation of Dillon’s Rule. This is where your criticism of Judge Neill’s Ruling, and optimism of overturn need to be tempered. I am sure it goes without saying that you cannot have varying laws of evidence from one circuit to the next. That is approaching the textbook definition of anarchy.

    I would suggest you review the arguments and dicta in Springfield v. Adolph Belt, as the majority of the Justices, and Chief Justice Wolff himself, made it clear that they cannot understand how these citations could possibly be classified as “non-moving” violations and how they were actually offenses separate from an offense cited by a Police Officer.

    • Section 19(a) of the Missouri constitution provides that: “Any city which adopts or has adopted a charter for its own government, shall have all powers which the general assembly of the state of Missouri has authority to confer upon any city, provided such powers are consistent with the constitution of this state and are not limited or denied either by the charter so adopted or by statute. Such a city shall, in addition to its home rule powers, have all powers conferred by law.”
      The Judge in this case held that under Dillon’s Rule, St. Louis needed to show that the General Assembly had granted St. Louis the power to adopt the ordinance. This was an error. The home rule provision in the Missouri Constitution was established to allow a home rule city to pass laws without having to get a grant of authority from the General Assembly. Nothing is more fundamental than this point.

      • Matt Hay says:

        So by you statement, do you therefore believe all non-charter municipalities (3rd/4th class cities, etc.) are operating absent Statutory Authority to do so, and thus unjustly enriching themselves and American Traffic Solutions or Redflex by their programs?

      • Section 304.120.2(1) RSMo. provides that municipalities, by ordinance, may:

        “(1) Make additional rules of the road or traffic regulations to meet their needs and traffic conditions;”

        It seems very clear from the above that all municipalities have been granted authority by the General Assembly of the State of Missouri to enact additional rules of the road and traffic regulations. That part of the opinion that stated that the City of St. Louis had not been granted the power by the General Assembly ignored the plain meaning of the above language and the fact that the City of St. Louis has the authority under its Charter to enact additional rules of the road and traffic regulations.

      • Matt Hay says:

        I think you are missing the forest for the trees and not properly understanding what the crux of the issue. This is not really a law we are talking about here. It is the adoption of a law of evidence by rule, which is what Judge Neill’s position seems to be, thus his order. Article V of the Missouri Constitution grants the ability to amend the laws of evidence to the General Assembly alone. So therefore, the ability for a Charter entity to take it upon themselves to do so is clearly denied by Article V. The argument here is not whether a Charter entity can pass laws without the expressed consent of the General Assembly which are not in conflict with the Constitution or statute, there is no disagreement there. The argument is whether or not this “rule of evidence” constitutes a “law” or is it actually a rule of evidence in the sheep’s clothing of a law. Common sense would say that obviously no municipality in the state can amend the rules of evidence as the inevitable outcome would be judicial chaos and anarchy.

  2. Matt Hay says:

    I am not sure if you are being intentionally obtuse, or you really do not understand the seminal issue here, and of Judge Neills ruling. You just completely fail to acknowledge it, no matter how many times I point it out, you keep citing a statute which is irrelevent. In order to be relevent, we must be talking about “rules of the road. and traffic regulations.” The point is, these ARE NOT RULES OF THE ROAD OR TRAFFIC REGULATIONS. That was what Judge Neill determined, and hence his ultimate conclusion there was no statutory authority for any political subdivision. If you want to have an honest dialogue, that is what the dialogue needs to revolve around.

    Question: Are Red Light Camera Ordinances which enact civil, “non-moving violations” actually rules of the road or traffic regulations (see 302.302(1) RSMo below)? Judge Neill seems to believe that these municipal ordinances are not (Chief Justice Wolff also seems to share this opinion in the Springfield v. Belt dicta). I would agree with both of them. In order to make the above arguement under 304.120.2(1) RSMo, you have to first be able to assert that these are “rules of the road” even under a broad interpretation, and if so, why are points not being reported to DOR as required by 302.301(1)?

    1. The director of revenue SHALL put into effect a point system for the suspension and revocation of licenses. Points shall be assessed only after a conviction or forfeiture of collateral. The initial point value is as follows:
    (1) Any moving violation of a state law or county or MUNICIPAL or federal TRAFFIC ORDINANCE OR REGULATION not listed in this section, other than a violation of vehicle equipment provisions or a court-ordered supervision as provided in section 302.303…… 2 points

    Note the use of “shall”, not “may” above. No discretion exists. Problem is, these ordinances are either codified with the language that these are not points assessable, and/or that language appears on the citations stating that they are not, as well as a threat that a warrant may be issued for the registered owners arrest (regardless of the fact FTA cannot be issued for civil ordinance violations). You trumpted Layton’s “support” of this, but note his language regarding “otherwise valid” ordinances. With these words, he dodged the issue and made anything that followed meaningless. He did not address the actual questions Sen. Lembke raised. Municipalities want to be half pregnant with these things and pick from the most advantageous aspects of both the Criminal and Civil Procedure. You have to choose one, the Missouri Supreme Court Rules are not ala carte. With this latest slate of lawsuits The SImon Firm has filed, we can be assured that if Bevis Schock does not get to the Supreme Court with his Creve Coeur case, one of the others will thank heavens. Sad thing is, this whole discussion is solely about extracting revenue. If not, why does the MML refuse to support minimum Amber Signal Standards as determined by the updated ITE Calculation???? Proper timing of the ambers in the City of Arnold by MoDOT in March led to a 90% decrease in citations quite literally overnight/one month to the next. While in 5 years of the camera program, the number of ciataions at the 141/Astra Way intersection doubled, overnight, proper interval timing cut the number of citations by almost 90%. Isn’t that what we all want to see? Can we count on the MML’s support of this minimum amber legislation in the 2012 session?

  3. Matt Hay says:

    Make that 302.302(1), scrivner’s error

  4. Pingback: Photo Red Light Camera Cases | Missouri Public Policy and Law

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