JEFFERSON CITY - A proposed crackdown on speed radar cameras has highlighted one division between state and local regulations.
Legislation proposed by Rep. Michael Corcoran, D-St. Louis County, would regulate the installation of speed radar cameras, allowing their use only in school, work and construction zones.
Corcoran said his hometown of St. Ann is the first municipality to use radar cameras to enforce speed limits. St. Ann first used the cameras on a trial basis, covering the school zone on Ashby Rd. outside Hoech Middle School, which Corcoran's son attends. Since March 8, the city has relied on radar cameras to issue speeders $100 fines. Corcoran said the complaints have come from "non-residents using the road as a cut through."
Corcoran's bill has drawn comparisons to similar proposals regarding red light cameras.
Columbia passed an ordinance allowing red-light cameras in Aug. 2006. City of Columbia public relations director Toni Messina said the City Council has not discussed the possibility of using speed radar cameras in Columbia.
Without state sanctioned guidelines regarding these technologies, a few legislators question whether city ordinances pertaining to automated enforcement systems, like the ones implemented in St. Ann and Columbia, could hold up in court. Currently, no state stature regarding automated traffic enforcement systems -- like red light and speed radar cameras -- exists. Instead, individual municipalities have created their own ordinances regarding use of the technology.
"A lack of statewide framework leaves ordinances [like these] ripe for court challenges," said Rep. Jeff Roorda, D-Barnhart. Roorda, a former chief of police, said he was concerned with the "direct confliction" of a city acting outside of state law. Roorda cited the state Supreme Court's recent ruling against the city of Springfield's red-light camera ticketing process as an example of the authority issue.
The state Supreme Court found that the City of Springfield's method of hearing automated traffic tickets in administrative hearings was unconstitutional. The court ruled hearings on the tickets must be held in municipal courts.
On March 6, the Springfield News-Leader reported that the Springfield City Council asked to court to reconsider segments of the ruling.
Some say safety concerns trump downfalls associated with automated traffic enforcement systems. Rep. Tim Meadows, D-Imperial, said while he is "normally not a big fan of [traffic enforcement] cameras," he has since changed his mind, and is now "very, very grateful" for the increased citizen safety.
Sen. Jim Lembke, R-St. Louis County, is sponsoring legislation to ban municipalities from using red-light enforcement cameras entirely, on the basis of "constitutional problems."
"Local municipalities, including Columbia, circumvent state statute with local ordinances that take a moving violation from a criminal offense to a non-moving violation, like a parking ticket," Lembke said.
According to Lembke, if an officer pulls over a driver for running a red-light, the driver is issued a moving violation, and receives two points against his or her license. If a red-light camera detects a ran light, however, the driver is cited with a non-moving violation, and does not receive a point penalty.
Lembke said this policy does not provide equal protection under the law, despite the exact same offense asking, "whatever happened to 'innocent until proven guilty?'" He added that merely limiting enforcement cameras to school, construction and work zones, was not enough.
"The premise there is that these are places where we need to additional safety," Lembke said. "Until we address the idea that we're actually treading on the constitutional rights of our citizens, I'm against it."