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Traffic Camera Cases Argued Before Missouri Supreme Court

A judge has thrown out the city of St. Louis' ordinance that allows the use of red light cameras.
via Flickr/functoruser
A judge has thrown out the city of St. Louis' ordinance that allows the use of red light cameras.

The Missouri Supreme Court is mulling over three cases that could decide whether cities and towns can continue to use traffic cameras to catch speeders and red-light runners.

Two of the cases involve the use of red-light cameras, one in St. Louis and the other in St. Peters. The third case involves the use of speeding cameras in Moline Acres in St. Charles County.

Attorney Bevis Schock represents plaintiffs in the St. Louis and St. Peters cases. He told the high court Tuesday that their use creates a situation where the motorist is guilty until proven innocent.

These protections, the right to remain silent, the prosecutor (having) the whole burden (of proof), are completely rejected in this scheme," Schock said. "(In St. Louis), they hand you an affidavit and say, 'prove you didn't do it' … that's crazy, it can't be right."

Attorneys representing St. Louis, St. Peters and Moline Acres argued that the use of traffic cameras does not violate citizens' rights, and that they help make streets safer.

In addition, St. Louis Metropolitan Police Chief Sam Dotson told reporters that the system they use is fair to motorists.

"If you've ever received a red light ticket or if you've ever watched the review process, it's very clear that the vehicle violates the electric signal," Dotson said."It's very clear that you have the license plate of that (vehicle)."

Dotson also says the system in St. Louis allows the vehicle's owner to object if someone else was driving his or her car. Some of Tuesday's arguments focused on whether the use of traffic cameras was unfair in cases where someone besides the vehicle's owner was behind the wheel.

Questions were also raised by some Supreme Court judges as to whether the local traffic camera ordinances should be voided because they don't follow state law requiring points to be assessed for speeding or running red lights.

"(The plaintiff in St. Peters) didn't get points assessed," said Supreme Court Judge Paul Wilson. "No one's saying she should have, and yet you want to say she wasn't guilty of the conduct because the punishment they could have imposed and didn't, and (that) she didn't want, wasn't imposed."

The State Supreme Court is expected to rule on the three cases later.

Follow Marshall Griffin on Twitter:  @MarshallGReport

Marshal was a political reporter for St. Louis Public Radio until 2018.