Judge rules St. Louis red light camera ordinance is 'void'

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by Maggie Crane

KMOV.com

Posted on May 24, 2011 at 10:56 PM

Updated Thursday, Jun 2 at 9:41 AM

Red light cameras in the city of St. Louis violate state law:  That's a judge's preliminary ruling on a lawsuit filed by drivers who received the tickets and challenged their legality.

The flashbulbs on top of red light cameras at 51 city intersections have amounted to big money for the city, pulling in some $3 million a year since red light camera enforcement started in 2007.

But a new judgment -- the first big step -- could unravel its future. 

If you've already paid your fine, you're out of luck.  But the judgment, which has yet to be finalized, could let you off the hook for a $100 ticket for running a red light in the city.

Attorney Jim Martin argues it's unconstitutional, because to get out of the ticket, you've got to snitch on someone else.

"That's not what this country is founded on," Martin says.  "You have the right to remain silent, and you don't have to testify against yourself."

But a judge found an even more profound problem: whether the city, which has "home rule" and is able to make decisions for itself, actually had the right to enact the red light camera ordinance in the first place.

In the ruling, the judge says "The City of St. Louis does not have authority to enact such an ordinance; therefore, ordinance #66868 is void."

Mayor Francis Slay's Chief of Staff Jeff Rainford responds:

"Well first of all the order is not even final so it's not void from a practical point of view," Rainford says.  "Second of all, the plaintiffs didn't even raise that point, so we didn't have a chance to argue against it."

Until the courts can sort it out, the city says it's business as usual; although, no points go on your license and no one has been arrested for failing to pay.

So if you're sitting on a ticket now or get one before this case is decided, a judge says don't ignore it.  Instead, fight it on the grounds that it is unconstitutional.

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