Tuesday’s state appeals court panel’s ruling that an eastern Missouri community's ordinance governing red-light cameras contradicts state law and is not enforceable, will impact Hannibal.
Tuesday’s state appeals court panel’s ruling that an eastern Missouri community's ordinance governing red-light cameras contradicts state law and is not enforceable, will impact Hannibal. However, it in no way will mean the community’s four camera systems located along U.S. 61 will be going offline.
“It impacts us, but it doesn’t stop us from continuing the (red-light camera) program,” said Hannibal City Attorney James Lemon on Thursday morning.
A three-judge panel of the Missouri Court of Appeals Eastern District said contrary to the city of Ellisville's red-light camera ordinance, running a red light is a moving violation for which state law requires points to be assessed against the driver.
The court also ruled that ticketing a vehicle's owner for such a moving violation when there is no proof the owner was driving, also is in conflict with Missouri statutes.
According to Lemon, the city of Hannibal already provides adequate evidence in court.
“When we try these things, even though we’re not required to, we show the photo and video because we want the people to understand they did this (ran a red light). We’ve always been letting people see all the evidence,” said Lemon. “The only thing this is going to change will be the fact that we will be required to show that these people were the driver of the vehicle. That’s fine.”
Because Hannibal went with a higher end red-light camera system, it provides more images of the vehicle running the signal, including the face of the driver, according to Lemon.
The appeal court’s ruling will require a revision in Hannibal’s ordinances.
“I’m going to rework our ordinances a little bit in that I’m going to completely remove that specialized red-light traffic ordinance,” said Lemon. “We are no longer going to write these tickets under a specialized red-light camera ordinance, that’s a no points violation. We will just write these under the standard ‘you-ran-a-red-light’ ordinance.”
Lemon would like to have the revised ordinance ready to go before the City Council at its special call meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 12. The city attorney will request giving the measure an emergency reading, which means it will immediately take effect if approved by the Council.
Lemon stresses there is no “gray area” for those caught by a red-light camera before the revised ordinance can be read.
“As we sit here with our ordinance the way it is, I can write all of those tickets under our normal red-light ordinance, and that’s what I’m going to do. Anything that’s pending and in the hopper, we’re going to re-write those,” he said.
The appeal court’s ruling will only bring a bigger penalty against those caught by a red-light camera system, according to Lemon.
“Unfortunately, this is one of those be-careful-what-you-wish-for-because-you-may-get-it situations,” he said. “It’s going to be hard on drivers who violate it because now, instead of a non-points violation, they’re going to get a points violation.”
This may not be the final ruling on the issue. An attorney for American Traffic Solutions, which installed and operates the cameras in Ellisville and more than two dozen other Missouri communities, indicated the ruling will be appealed to the state’s Supreme Court.
The camera system in use in Hannibal is owned by Redflex Traffic Systems Inc.