Court of Appeals Upholds St. Louis City Red Light Camera Law

Today the Missouri Court of Appeals upheld St. Louis City’s red light camera law, reversing St. Louis Circuit Court Judge Mark Neill’s ruling last year that the city had no authority to enact the ordinance.

Click here to read a recent St. Louis Post-Dispatch article about the court’s ruling on the controversial red light camera law in St. Louis City.

There are 65 cameras at 31 intersections in St. Louis City, earning the City $5.4 million in 2012 alone. Of that total amount, $1.7 million went to American Traffic Solutions, the company that installs and administers the red light cameras.

According to KMOX News, there are 138,000 unpaid red light camera tickets issued by the City of St. Louis that could now be called back into court. The St. Louis City Counselor’s office indicates they have no plans to offer amnesty to drivers who have not paid the fines for their red light camera tickets.

Which Cities Arrest Drivers for Red-Light Camera Tickets?

These cities arrest drivers for unpaid red-light camera tickets:  Creve Coeur, Florissant, Hazelwood, St. Ann, St. Peters, and Wentzville.

Arnold, Bel-Nor, Brentwood, Clayton, Hillsdale, Pine Lawn, and St. Louis City currently do not issue warrants for failure to pay red-light camera tickets.

What is a Red-Light Camera Ticket?

Red-light camera tickets are issued against vehicles that are caught on camera running a red light. The ticket is not personally issued to the driver by a police officer. Instead, it is mailed to the registered owner of the vehicle. Therefore, if you loan your car to someone and they receive a red-light camera ticket while driving your car, the ticket will be mailed to you (the registered owner of the vehicle), and it will be your responsibility to pay the fine or risk having a warrant for your arrest issued.

Many red-light cameras only capture a photo of the vehicle’s license plate, while other cameras photograph both the license plate and the driver’s face.

Red-Light Camera Tickets Are Non-Moving, No-Point Violations in Missouri

A red-light camera ticket is a non-moving violation, which means no points will be added to your Missouri driving record. Fines for red-light camera tickets in the St. Louis area are different in each court and can range from $100 to $125.

Speed Camera Tickets Are Similar to Red-Light Camera Tickets

Speed camera tickets are non-moving, no-point infractions, similar to red-light camera tickets. The tickets are mailed to the registered owner of the vehicle, rather than being issued in person by a police officer.

Cool Valley & St.Ann have speed cameras and they do issue warrants for unpaid speed camera ticket fines. Bel-Ridge, Hillsdale and Pine Lawn currently do not issue arrest warrants if you don’t pay a speed camera fine.

Click here to read my previous blog post about speed cameras in St. Louis.

Courts Can Issue a Warrant if You Fail to Pay a Red-Light Camera Fine

Courts have the power to issue arrest warrants against defendants who fail to appear in court on their court date or who fail to pay their fines. This applies to any defendant accused of any offense, not just red-light camera violations.

What Happens if You Don’t Pay Your Red-Light Camera Ticket Fine?

If you fail to pay your red-light camera ticket fine, the court will send a letter reminding you to pay. If you don’t pay the fine after receiving the first letter, the court will send a second letter (called a “summons”) telling you to appear in court. If you don’t appear in court in response to the summons, the court will issue a warrant for your arrest.

In addition to being charged with running a red light, you may also be charged with Failure to Appear (FTA) if you don’t pay the fine or appear in court. The court will assess additional fees for the FTA charge and also a separate warrant fee if the court issues a warrant.

Which Courts Issue Warrants for Red-Light Camera Tickets in St. Louis?

Creve Coeur, Florissant, Hazelwood, St. Peters, St. Ann, and Wentzville issue arrest warrants for drivers who don’t pay their red-light camera ticket fines.

Which Courts Don’t Issue Warrants for Red-Light Camera Tickets in St. Louis?

Arnold, Bel-Nor, Brentwood, Clayton, Hillsdale, Pine Lawn, and St. Louis City have red-light cameras but they currently do not issue warrants if drivers fail to pay their fines. (Keep in mind that these courts’ policies regarding red-light camera tickets can change at any time.)

St. Louis City sends unpaid tickets to a debt collection law firm. Other courts may soon do the same.

Why Do Some Courts Not Issue Warrants for Red-Light Camera Tickets?

Not all cities that have red-light cameras issue warrants when drivers fail to pay their fines. One reason for this may be because of potential due process issues that may arise if the court arrests the registered owner of a vehicle without proof that the owner was the person driving the vehicle when the red-light violation occurred.

If the red-light camera captures a photo of the license plate but no photo of the actual driver, then there is no proof that the registered owner of the vehicle was driving the vehicle at the time of the violation.

The red-light cameras used in Wentzville, MO and St. Peters, MO take photos of both the driver’s face and the vehicle’s license plate. This makes it easier for the registered owner of the vehicle to fight the ticket in court if he was not the person driving the car at the time of the violation.

Do Courts Really Arrest People for Unpaid Red-Light Camera Tickets?

Yes, courts in the St. Louis area do arrest people for not paying their red-light camera tickets.

St. Peters police recently arrested a St. Charles County councilman for an unpaid red-light camera ticket that he received last summer. St. Peters sent the councilman two notices in the mail, and then issued a warrant for his arrest. The councilman claims he mailed his payment to the court before receiving the second notice, but the court had no record of his payment, so it issued a warrant for the councilman’s arrest and St. Peters police arrested him.

Click here to read the St. Louis Post-Dispatch article about St. Peters arresting drivers for unpaid red-light camera ticket fines.

How to Fight a Red-Light Camera Ticket

If you receive a red-light camera ticket and you want to fight it in court, either call the phone number on the ticket or call the court clerk and ask for a court date. You will have to appear in court for arraignment and plead not guilty, and then the judge will set a trial date for your case.

At the trial of a red-light camera ticket, you should expect a representative of the company that administers the red-light cameras to testify in court. Also testifying in court will be the police officer who reviewed the video showing your vehicle going through the intersection. (Red-light camera tickets are reviewed by a police officer before being mailed to defendants.)

In St. Louis City Municipal Court, there is a separate docket for red-light camera ticket defendants. You will have to appear in court on your court date, at which time the judge will watch the video showing your vehicle going through the intersection, and the judge will decide whether or not to dismiss your ticket.

St. Louis City Adds More Red Light Cameras

St. Louis City will install 11 more red light cameras this year, taking the total up to 62 cameras at 31 intersections in the City. The new red light cameras will be added regardless of the current legal dispute over whether the City’s red light camera ordinance violates state law.

St. Louis City Circuit Judge Mark Neill ruled in February 2012 that the City’s red light camera ordinance is void, but the City is challenging that ruling in the Missouri State Court of Appeals.

You Can Fight Your Red Light Camera Ticket In St. Louis City Municipal Court

In the meantime, the City has changed the wording on the red light camera tickets to inform defendants that they can fight their tickets in court if they choose to do so. Click here to read a St. Louis Magazine article about how to fight your red light camera ticket in St. Louis City traffic court.

Where Will The New Red Light Cameras Be Installed In St. Louis City?

Here’s a list of the locations where red light cameras will be installed this year:

    • Forest Park & Skinker (already installed)
    • Forest Park & Vandeventer
    • Olive & Jefferson
    • Jefferson & Park
    • Delmar & Skinker
    • Union & Bircher
    • Kingshighway & Oleatha

According to this recent article about St. Louis City’s red light cameras, the cameras have brought in $17 million in revenue within the past 5 years since the cameras were installed.

St. Louis City Municipal Court does not issue warrants to defendants who refuse to pay fines for red light camera tickets, but unpaid tickets are turned over to a law firm for debt collection.

Smartphone Apps Alert Drivers About Red Light Cameras

A free smartphone application called “Trapster” beeps to warn drivers when they approach an intersection containing a red light camera. It is the most downloaded driving application in the world, with over 16 million users. Drivers provide information about the location of red light cameras and speed traps, and that information is then added to the Trapster database. Click here to read a recent CBS News article about this red light camera app.

Other Speed Trap Apps  

Other red light camera/speed trap detection apps include CamerAlert, Phantomalert, Cobra iRadar, Policeradar for Android, EZCam speed camera detector, and iSpeedCam. Many of these apps are free and will detect police radar, road hazards, and accidents, in addition to alerting you when you are approaching a red light camera or speed camera.

St. Louis Red Light Cameras

There are 51 red light cameras in St. Louis City. Red light cameras are also used in many other municipalities in the St. Louis area, including Arnold, Creve Coeur, Ellisville, Florissant, Hazelwood, and St. Ann. The fine for a red light camera ticket in St. Louis is $100 and it is a non-moving, no-point violation, similar to a parking ticket.

What Happens If You Don’t Pay Your Red Light Camera Ticket Fine?

If you fail to pay a red light camera ticket fine, some courts do nothing, while others will turn your unpaid ticket over to a debt collection law firm.

The municipal court in St. Ann, Missouri will issue a warrant against your vehicle’s license plates if you fail to pay a red light camera fine. So, if you are pulled over for a traffic violation, or if a police officer runs your plates and sees that your vehicle has a warrant, then your vehicle will be seized and you will have to pay to retrieve it from a tow lot.

Where Are Red Light Cameras Located in St. Louis?

Click here to see where red light cameras are located in St. Louis.

For more information, see my previous blog posts about St. Louis red light cameras. Or call St. Louis traffic law attorney Andrea Storey Rogers at (314) 724-5059 or email Andrea at [email protected].

 

 

St. Louis City Red Light Camera Tickets Are Still Legal

St. Louis City’s red light camera tickets are still valid and enforceable, for now. On February 17, 2012, St. Louis City Circuit Court Judge Mark Neill ruled that St. Louis City’s red light camera law is unconstitutional because it violates procedural due process by depriving a person of property without allowing that person the right to a hearing, or some other means of disputing the ticket.

The City of St. Louis Will Appeal Judge Neill’s Final Ruling

The ruling on February 17th was Judge Neill’s final ruling in a lawsuit that was filed in 2009 by three people who had received red light camera tickets in the City of St. Louis. In May 2011, Judge Neill issued a preliminary ruling in that same case, stating that St. Louis City enacted its red light camera ordinance without proper authority from the State.

The city counselor for the City of St. Louis, Patti Hageman, has indicated that the city will appeal Judge Neill’s final ruling. The city has 30 days from the date of the final ruling on February 17th to file its appeal. Read Judge Neill’s final ruling on St. Louis City’s red light cameras.

Over 267,000 Red Light Camera Tickets Were Issued in the City of St. Louis Over a 3-Year Period

There are 51 red light cameras located at intersections throughout the City of St. Louis. The cameras were first installed in 2007. During the period of 2007 through 2010, over 267,000 red light camera tickets were issued in the City of St. Louis. Tickets are mailed to the registered owner of the vehicle caught on camera violating a red light traffic signal. The fine for each red light camera ticket is $100.

Vehicle Owners Are Not Given a Chance to Fight Their St. Louis City Red Light Camera Tickets

There is no court date printed on a St. Louis City red light camera ticket, and vehicle owners are not provided with any information regarding how to fight their tickets. If you claim that someone else was driving your car when the red light camera violation occurred, then you will be required to provide the court with the name and address of that person.

Springfield, Missouri is Waiting Until the St. Louis City Red Light Camera Lawsuit is Resolved Before it Turns its Red Light Cameras Back On

Springfield, Missouri turned off its red light cameras in 2010 after the Missouri Supreme Court ruled that Springfield violated procedural due process by using an administrative hearing process for red light camera tickets, rather than allowing defendants to dispute their tickets in state or municipal court.

Springfield was preparing to revise its red light camera ordinance and turn the cameras back on, but the city recently decided to wait until the appeal of the St. Louis City lawsuit is decided, because the language and procedures in the revised Springfield ordinance are very similar to that of the St. Louis City red light camera law.

Should You Pay Your St. Louis City Red Light Camera Ticket?

For now, the red light cameras in the City of St. Louis are still valid and enforceable, and the city plans to keep issuing tickets. If you fail to pay your red light camera ticket fine, the city will submit your account to a law firm located in Texas that the city hired to handle its debt collection. The Texas law firm will send you a letter reminding you to pay the fine, and if you continue to refuse to pay, the law firm can report your unpaid fine to the credit bureaus.

The City of St. Louis Can Issue an Arrest Warrant if You Fail to Pay a Red Light Camera Ticket Fine

The City of St. Louis has the power to issue arrest warrants against people who refuse to pay their red light camera tickets, but at this point, no one in the city has been arrested for failure to pay a red light camera ticket fine.

If you are unable to view the video at the beginning of this blog post, you can see it by clicking on the following link to see the recent KSDK Channel 5 news story regarding should you pay your St. Louis City red light camera ticket.

To read more about red light cameras, see my previous blog posts regarding the latest information about St. Louis red light camera tickets.

St. Ann, MO Municipal Court to Issue Warrants for Unpaid Red Light Camera Ticket Fines

St. Ann Municipal Court in St. Ann, Missouri (a suburb of St. Louis) will soon begin issuing warrants against the license plates of vehicles ticketed for red light camera violations if the vehicle owners fail to pay the fines. The vehicle will be seized and whoever is driving at the time will have to call a friend (or a taxi) to pick them up at the police station. So, before you borrow a car from a friend, you might want to confirm that they have paid any fines for red light camera tickets in St. Ann, Missouri.

Many St. Louis area municipalities have installed red light cameras, but most do not issue arrest warrants for unpaid fines. If you fail to pay the fine for a red light camera ticket in most courts in the St. Louis area, you will probably receive a demand for payment from a debt collection agency or law firm. For now, the laws allowing red light camera tickets have been upheld. See this blog post about the Missouri Court of Appeals’ recent decision to uphold a red light camera ordinance in Creve Coeur, Missouri.

A Missouri red light camera ticket is essentially a very expensive parking ticket because it is a non-moving, no-point infraction. If a vehicle enters an intersection when the traffic light is red, the red light cameras take a photograph of the vehicle and the vehicle’s license plate. Then a ticket for a red light camera violation is issued against the vehicle and is mailed to the owner of the vehicle. The owner of the vehicle is responsible for paying the $100 fine, regardless of who was driving the vehicle at the time the violation occurred.

For more information, see my previous blog post about red light camera tickets in St. Louis, Missouri.

Missouri Court of Appeals Upholds St. Louis Red-Light Camera Law

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: //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.

 

St. Louis Red Light Cameras: The Beginning of the End?

The Los Angeles City Council voted recently to shut down its red light cameras because the traffic enforcement program is losing $1.5 million per year as a result of vehicle owners’ refusal to pay the fines—and the courts’ refusal to pursue those who don’t pay the fines.  In addition, the courts ruled that the red light camera tickets in the city of Los Angeles were unenforceable because there were no live witnesses who could testify against the defendants. Houston, Texas has gotten rid of its red light cameras and nine other states have banned them.

In St. Louis, Missouri, only about half of red light camera ticket fines are being paid; vehicle owners are either ignoring the tickets or are fighting them in court. Los Angeles is the 2nd largest city in the U.S., so if L.A. has been forced to shut down its red light cameras because it is unable to make drivers pay up, could this foreshadow the beginning of the end for St. Louis red light cameras?

Red Light Cameras Are a Source of Revenue for St. Louis Area Municipalities

The city of St. Louis reportedly has received $3 million per year in revenue from red light camera tickets since the cameras were installed in 2007. The city of Ellisville, Missouri nets about $200,000 per year from red light camera fines, and Creve Coeur made a profit of $50,000 from red light camera ticket fines in fiscal year 2010 after paying administrative costs.

St. Louis City Judge Issues Preliminary Ruling That Red Light Camera Tickets Are Invalid

In late May 2011, St. Louis City Circuit Court Judge Mark Neill issued a preliminary ruling stating that St. Louis City red light camera tickets are invalid in the absence of enabling statues from the state legislature. The judge’s ruling was in response to a class-action lawsuit filed against the city in 2009 by three vehicle owners who received red light camera tickets and claimed they were not driving their vehicles at the time the tickets were issued. The preliminary ruling is not binding at this point so, for now, red light camera tickets will continue to be issued in St. Louis City.

If You Refuse to Pay a St. Louis Red Light Camera Ticket, the Consequences May Be Worse Than the $100 Fine

Many St. Louis drivers are tempted to refuse to pay the $100 fine for the “Photo Violation” or “Red Light Camera Ticket” they receive in the mail, but if you do, you may run the risk that the court will issue a warrant for your arrest and turn your case over to a law firm for collection of the debt.

If You Refuse to Pay the Fine, the Court May Eventually Find You

Some St. Louis area courts such as Creve Coeur, Wentzville, and St. Peters claim they will issue arrest warrants for unpaid red light camera tickets. St. Louis City sends all unpaid parking and speeding tickets to a debt collection law firm who pursues the vehicle owners for the unpaid fines. I have not heard of any arrest warrants being issued in the St. Louis area because of failure to pay a red light camera ticket, but I suspect it could happen if you accumulate enough unpaid tickets.

Over 180,000 Los Angeles citizens have received red light camera tickets since the traffic enforcement program started there in 2004, and 65,000 of those tickets remain unpaid. If a Los Angeles vehicle owner refused to pay a red light camera ticket fine, which could amount to as much as $500, the Los Angeles County Superior Court merely sent the unpaid ticket to a county collections department that issued a warning. If the vehicle owner still refused to pay the fine, there was no adverse impact on that person’s credit, driving record, or insurance.

Is It Worth It to Fight Your Red Light Camera Ticket?

Some red light cameras capture a photo of the driver’s face, in addition to the license plate. If the camera doesn’t get a photo of your face, you have a better shot at fighting the ticket. However, it will likely cost a lot more than $100 (the amount of a St. Louis red light camera ticket fine) to hire an attorney to represent you in court. Since the ticket is a non-moving violation and no points are added to your driving record, many St. Louis drivers choose to pay the $100 fine instead of spending additional time and money to fight it in court.

Very Expensive Parking Ticket

You may be thinking, “How is the court going to prove it was me driving the car?” Unfortunately, the red light camera ordinances are written in such a way that the ticket is issued against your car, not you personally. So it doesn’t matter who was driving your car because it’s basically just a very expensive parking ticket. By way of some pretty creative ordinance-drafting, a red light camera ticket is not considered a moving violation, so the prosecuting attorney doesn’t have to prove you were the driver.

Many Argue That Red Light Camera Ticket Laws Are Unconstitutional

Many attorneys argue that red light camera ticket laws are unconstitutional because the registered owner of the vehicle is presumed guilty until proven innocent. The owner is presumed to be the person driving the car when it is photographed running a red light, so the ticket is mailed to the owner. Then the owner must either pay the fine or go to court to prove he is innocent, rather than requiring the prosecutor to prove he is guilty.

Vehicle Owner is Forced to Turn In Family and Friends

Keep in mind that, if you try to fight a red light camera ticket by claiming you were not driving your car at the time the ticket was issued, the court may require you to submit information stating who has permission to drive your vehicle so the court can identify (and pursue) the person who was driving your car at the time the violation occurred.

BOTTOM LINE:  For now, red light camera tickets are still being issued in the St. Louis, Missouri area. Depending on which municipal court issued the red light camera ticket and how many unpaid tickets you have, the court may issue a warrant for your arrest if you fail to pay the fine and may turn your case over to a law firm for collection of the debt.

Want more information regarding Missouri traffic law? View our traffic law resources page for links to information regarding Missouri speeding tickets, points, Missouri driver’s licenses, courts, and other traffic-related issues.