A recent Missouri Supreme Court ruling struck down some language in St. Peters’ ordinance governing red-light cameras, but didn’t invalidate their use and may have left the door cracked open for their future use. However, opening that door soon seems unlikely.
While the ruling may have scored some legal points, the reality is that, in practical terms, red-light cameras in St. Peters, or the rest of St. Charles County, are now a moot point.
The city of St. Peters removed its red-light cameras following a vote by aldermen on Sept. 1, 2014; and a charter amendment, approved on Nov. 4, 2014, made their use county-wide illegal. Both of those actions took place after the city’s appeal of an earlier court ruling was filed – the appeal in which the Missouri Supreme Court ruled Aug. 18. The vote faces another legal challenge.
In December, St. Peters along with Lake Saint Louis, O’Fallon, former Dardenne Prairie Mayor Pam Fogarty and O’Fallon Alderman Jim Pepper filed suit challenging the countywide ban. The lawsuit contends that the ban is counter to state laws giving municipalities control over traffic regulations within their boundaries. The case is still pending before St. Charles County Circuit Judge Dan Pelikan.
The Aug. 18 Supreme Court ruling was one of several on appeals of lower court rulings on red-light camera ordinances in the city of St. Louis and in Moline Acres as well as St. Peters. In that opinion, the court affirmed an October 2013 ruling by St. Charles County Circuit Court Judge Ted House that St. Peters red-light cameras conflict with state law because convictions don’t require penalty points on a driver’s license. House had dismissed a ticket received by Bonnie A. Roeder, a city resident, on those grounds. At that time, St. Peters was the only St. Charles County municipality using red-light cameras.
A month after House’s ruling, the city’s Board of Aldermen revised their red-light ordinance to include penalty points, but still went ahead with the appeal.
In its Aug. 18 ruling, the high court determined that the city’s ordinance does indeed conflict with state law “which requires the assessment of two points for a moving violation, because the ordinance creates a moving violation and states that no points will be assessed.”
In their appeal, the city had argued that the state’s charges code manual doesn’t include red-light cameras, so the city isn’t required to report it to the state for points to be taken off on a driver’s license. But, despite upholding House’s original interpretation, the court did not find that the entire ordinance should be thrown out.
The ruling “upheld the St. Peters red-light camera ordinance except for the sentence regarding our not charging points against a violator’s driver’s license,” city officials said in a statement following the Supreme Court ruling.
In regard to the lawsuit challenging the countywide ban, St. Peters City Attorney Randy Weber has said that aspects of the Supreme Court’s ruling actually may strengthen the city’s use of red-light cameras; however, city officials have said they have no intention of bringing the cameras back.