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Missouri’s Supreme Court struck down red-light cameras. Can St. Louis bring them back?

(via Flickr/functoruser)
St. Louis is considering a return of red-light cameras. They were previously struck down as unconstitutional by the Missouri Supreme Court.

Concerns over a rise in traffic violence have led St. Louis officials to consider an option the city first tried in 2007: installing automated cameras to catch traffic violators and deter others. However, in 2015, the ordinance faced scrutiny in Missouri’s Supreme Court. It was struck down as unconstitutional.

Some eight years later, red-light cameras are back in public discussion. The issue was taken up on Tuesday’s Legal Roundtable on St. Louis on the Air.

Attorney Brenda Talent, who serves as the CEO of the Show-Me Institute, said the previous ruling doesn’t mean that St. Louis can’t still find a way to make red-light cameras work — while remaining constitutional.

“You can do it. But you better dot your i's and cross your t's,” she warned. “If you're going to issue a ticket for speeding through a red light, you're going to need to identify who did it and show in fact that they violated the law.”

Proving the identity of the driver was a key sticking point for the Missouri Supreme Court when it struck down St. Louis’ ordinance. A draft of the proposed legislation would require the system be able to take a picture and video of the face of the driver, not just the license plate, St. Louis Public Radio reported.

“I read the statute,” said Bill Freivogel, an attorney and professor of journalism at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. “I think they've done a careful job of trying to answer the due process questions that the Missouri Supreme Court had raised. … They've got safeguards about how the photos will not be used for facial recognition, artificial intelligence and stuff like that. So they're addressing privacy concerns.”

Along with Freivogel and Talent, the Legal Roundtable featured Eric Banks, an attorney and mediator at Banks Law. The attorneys also discussed a $745 million verdict against the company that manufactures Whip-Its, a dispute between local TV news stations over the ownership of the phrase “First Alert Weather” and St. Louis’ Detention Facility Oversight Board.

To hear analyses of those cases — and more — from the Legal Roundtable, listen to St. Louis on the Air on Apple Podcast, Spotify, Google Podcast or Stitcher or by clicking the play button below.

Listen to the Legal Roundtable discuss red-light cameras and much more

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is produced by Miya Norfleet, Emily Woodbury, Danny Wicentowski, Elaine Cha and Alex Heuer. Ulaa Kuziez is our production assistant. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr. Send questions and comments about this story to talk@stlpr.org.

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Danny Wicentowski is a producer for "St. Louis on the Air."