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Mo. Appeals Court Puts The Brakes On Moline Acres Speed Cameras

The agreement between the St. Louis County Family Court and the Justice Department, almost a year and a half in the making, is aimed at correcting violations in young people's due process and harsher treatment directed at black children.
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The Missouri Court of Appeals today rejected the use of speed cameras in Moline Acres, saying the city’s ordinance conflicts with state law.

Today's opinion, written by Judge Lisa Van Amburg, and joined by Judges Patricia Cohen and Philip Hess, is nearly identical to a November rulingthat struck down the red light camera program in Ellisville. In both cases, the courts determined that the conflict occurs because the city’s ordinances punish the owner of a car who may or may not have been driving.

As Van Amburg wrote:

"The Edwards court found that any ordinance which seeks to impose strict liability on a vehicle's owner, rather than the driver, for the manner in which a moving vehicle is operated in violation of state law, conflicts with such state law.

The city of Moline Acres did not return a request for comment as to whether it would appeal the ruling. But according to University of Missouri law professor Richard Reuben, communities have too much invested in traffic control camera programs not to appeal.

If the city does appeal, it would go to the Missouri Supreme Court, and Reuben expects the Supreme Court to agree with the Ellisville and Moline Acres rulings. If that happens, Reuben said, it would turn into a fight among politicians at the local and state levels.

State lawmakers, he said, could vote to make it so traffic violations caught by cameras aren't misdemeanors and therefore don't lead to points on a license. Or, local lawmakers could rewrite their ordinances to charge the driver with a misdemeanor.

"What that means is that for every violation, points will be awarded against the driver’s record," Reuben said. "And I think politically, that would be untenable, because it would not take long for people's licenses to become jeopardized."

Reuben says he thinks the Supreme Court will get a case this year.

City of Moline Acres vs. Brennan (speed camera)

Moline Acres vs. Brennan

Edwards vs. city of Ellisville (red light camera)

Edwards vs. Ellisville

Follow Rachel Lippmann on Twitter: @rlippmann

Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.