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In a ruling last week, the Missouri Supreme Court struck down local laws authorizing red-light camera programs in a number of cities throughout the state. The Court held that local ordinances conflicted with state law because they had been treating violations like parking tickets without assessing points against the operator’s driver’s license for a moving violation.
The Court also ruled that some red-light camera laws were unconstitutional because they shifted the burden of proof from the prosecution to the defense. The owner of the car was presumed to be driving at the time of the violation unless he or she showed up in court and proved otherwise.
Although the Court voided current red-light traffic laws, many will be reconfigured to comply with the Court’s ruling. Kansas City’s City Manager Troy Schulte told the Kansas City Star he hopes to reinstitute the city’s red-light camera program: “I will most likely recommend re-establishing the cameras at our most dangerous intersections. While there are significant new policy discussions that the council will have to consider, I still feel and the data clearly shows that the cameras had a significant positive impact on traffic safety.”
Most of the new ordinances will likely require the capture of a photograph of the driver, not just the license plate, to result in a violation. American Traffic Solutions, which provides red-light camera services to St. Louis, Kansas City and other Missouri cities, already provides driver photos in other jurisdictions and says that it can offer the same service in Missouri.
This ruling is a positive development for Missouri drivers. Red-light cameras have been shown to lead to safer driver behavior, resulting in fewer violations and fewer accidents at intersections with cameras. But that doesn’t absolve the government of its obligation to prove its case. New restrictions requiring a photo of the driver will allow cities to make their streets safer while also limiting the number of people who are unjustly issued a violation and forced to go to court to prove their innocence.