Transportation Law

Ted Agniel, Esquire

City’s red light camera ordinance, which permitted the prosecution and penalization of persons who were not actually driving the vehicle, was void and unenforceable because it was in conflict with state law.  City of Moline Acres v. Brennan, No. 99787 (Mo. App. E.D., January 28, 2014), Van Amburg, P.J.

The City of Moline Acres installed speed cameras pursuant to Ordinance 1084, which it enacted in June 2012.  The ordinance imposed strict liability on owners of vehicles traveling in excess of the posted speed limit, captured on camera, regardless whether the owner was operating the vehicle at the time of the infraction.  Charles Brennan received a ticket pursuant to the ordinance.  He contested the matter in the Circuit Court of St. Louis County, arguing that the ordinance conflicted with state law concerning the assessment of points for speeding and it violated his due process rights.   The trial court declared the ordinance in conflict with state law because it regulated speeding (an act already prohibited by state law) but exempted the violation of such law from criminal prosecution and instead imposed a civil fine on the owner of the vehicle. The court dismissed the City’s action against Brennan.  The City appealed, arguing that (1) the ordinance did not conflict with state law; (2) it was validly enacted pursuant to its police powers; and (3) it did not violate Brennan’s due process rights. 

Held:  Affirmed.
  The Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern District, affirmed the trial court’s ruling on the first issue alone, that the ordinance did in fact conflict with state law and was, therefore, void.  Missouri’s statutory scheme creates misdemeanor offenses and the required assessment of points against drivers operating vehicles in excess of posted speed limits.   The City s argument that the ordinance did not conflict with state law because it imposed liability on ownersrather than drivers, was recently rejected in Edwards v. City of Ellisville (Mo. App. E.D., November 5, 2013).  The Edwards court held that “any ordinance which seeks to impose strict liability on a vehicle’s owner, rather than the driver, for the manner in which a moving vehicle is operated in violation of state law, conflicts with such state law.”  On that issue alone, therefore, the appellate court held the City’s ordinance was void and unenforceable.