Red Light Cameras in Limbo

Traffic tickets. Is there anything more annoying? We all know we should slow down, and all of us at Edelman, Liesen & Myers encourage everyone to obey the law at all times. But the truth is most people speed, to varying degrees, most of the time. When you get pulled over for going a little too fast, you can feel singled out and persecuted. Unfortunately, traffic tickets are not going anywhere. The same may not be said for tickets generated by red light cameras.

The status of red light cameras in Missouri is now an open question after the Eastern District of the Missouri Court of Appeals issued an opinion striking down a municipal ordinance in the city of Ellisville, Missouri. The ordinance is drafted almost identically to most of the others in the state, so some cities are responding by suspending their red light ticket programs. Kansas City did so last week, waiting for the Supreme Court to rule and resolve the conflict with a previous case that had permitted the red light tickets.

The judge struck down the statute because he found that it conflicted with state traffic laws. Missouri state statutes permit municipalities to pass ordinances punishing traffic infractions, but they cannot be “contrary to or in conflict with” the state’s driving statutes.  Ellisville’s municipal ordinance treats running the red light as a non-moving violation, equivalent to a parking violation (as do most others around the state, including Kansas City). This allows them to charge the ticket to the car’s owner, and eliminates the problem proving who the driver of the car (and therefore the violator of the ordinance) was. But, the court ruled that because the state statute required the reporting of moving violations (for the assessment of points on drivers’ licenses), treating what clearly is a moving violation (running a red light) as a non-moving violation is inconsistent with the state’s statute.

It remains to be seen if the decision in Edwards v. Ellisville will stand, or if municipalities will work out a new way to make the lucrative (and some argue safety-enhancing) traffic cameras work under the law. Until then, people will continue to get traffic tickets. If this should happen to you, you should consider hiring an attorney to protect your legal right.  The attorneys of Edelman, Liesen & Myers will represent our clients in all kinds traffic matters in both Kansas and Missouri.