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State's high court hears arguments in three traffic camera cases

Every motorist dreads the moment when they glance in their rearview mirror only to be greeted by the sight of a squad car's flashing lights. 

Here, just a momentary lapse in judgment behind the wheel can result in the officer issuing you a traffic violation that is not only costly, but which will also see penalty points added to your driver's license.

As frustrating as this scenario can be, it takes on a whole new level of frustration when the traffic violation isn't issued by a police officer, but rather through the mail via a traffic camera.

Not surprisingly, these traffic cameras -- the bane of many Missouri motorists -- have been at the epicenter of several bitter legal disputes across the state, with proponents arguing they can make the roads and highways safer and critics arguing that they are nothing more than a revenue stream for local governments.

Interestingly, the issue came to a head earlier this week when the Missouri Supreme Court heard arguments in three cases challenging the legality of these traffic cameras.

The primary contention of the three cases, filed by concerned motorists in St. Louis, Moline Acres and St. Peters, is that the issuance of traffic camera tickets for speeding and running red lights stands in direct conflict with existing state law.

To illustrate, the St. Peters case involves a woman who was issued a citation by a traffic camera for running a red light back in 2013, but who did not have any penalty points assessed against her license.

Here, the presiding circuit court judge dismissed the ticket and, while stopping short of voiding the city's red-light camera ordinance altogether, ruled that the city's cameras were in direct conflict with state law, as running a red light is defined as a moving violation punishable by penalty points under state law.

For their part, St. Peters officials have argued that the circuit court judge erred in his decision and that red-light violations captured by cameras were previously designated as non-point violations by the state's director of revenue.

Stay tuned for updates ...

If you have been charged with any type of moving violation -- speeding, texting while driving, failing to wear a seatbelt -- don't just dismiss it. That's because in addition to the steep fines, you can slowly accumulate penalty points against your license that could result in eventual license suspension or even revocation.

In these situations, you should strongly consider speaking with an experienced attorney who can outline your options and fight to keep your record clear.

Source: The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, "Missouri Supreme Court to hear 3 cases on traffic camera enforcement," Alex Stuckey, Dec. 2, 2014

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