High court knocks down red-light cameras

   

St. Louis — City officials announced yesterday they were dismissing all outstanding red-light camera cases and halting the issuing of any new tickets after Missouri’s Supreme Court ruled that the handling of the tickets by many cities conflicted with state law.

While the court did not rule on the legality of the cameras themselves, the ruling creates a new, stricter burden of proof that cities must meet if they want to issue red-light traffic tickets, potentially opening the door for new red-light regulations that would survive a legal challenge.

The court primarily took issue with the problematic shifting of the burden of proof onto drivers given tickets to prove they were not operating their motor vehicle, rather than placing that burden on the state.

“This Court further finds ordinance 66868 is unconstitutional because it creates a rebuttable presumption that improperly shifts the burden of persuasion onto the defendant to prove that he or she was not operating the motor vehicle at the time of the violation,” the court majority opinion reads.

The ruling — which also invalidated part of a St. Peters ordinance dealing with red-light cameras — essentially takes issue with how the owner of a vehicle is ticketed even when the driver of the car cannot be determined. Officials in St. Louis indicated that red-light cameras were not going anywhere, despite refunds coming to those who recently paid tickets. Rather, the city will move ahead with a new ordinance governing red-light cameras that will fall within the scope of yesterday’s court ruling.

“When we appealed this decision, we hoped to obtain a clear direction from the Supreme Court, and that’s what we received,” Deputy St. Louis City Counselor Michael Garvin said in a statement. “The City’s goal from the outset has been to utilize technology in a way that allows us to make optimal use of police manpower while at the same time safeguarding individuals’ constitutional rights. We will work with the Board of Aldermen to prepare a new ordinance that complies with the Court’s rulings.”