Cities Sue Their own Residents over Red Light Cameras

County residents voted overwhelmingly to ban red light cameras, but cities are suing the county to overrule their own residents.

camera street

The legal principle is interesting. Do counties have the authority to pass laws that dictate policy to the cities and towns within them? The residents of St. Charles County recently voted on a ban on all red light cameras. The ban passed by a majority of 73 percent.

But the ban is now being challenged. According to KMOV:

St. Peters, O’Fallon, Lake St. Louis, and a councilman from O’Fallon are filing a lawsuit in attempt to block a ban on red light cameras in St. Charles County.


Who can regulate and restrict red light cameras is open to debate. St. Peters issued a statement saying:

No authority exists for St. Charles County to lay claim to the regulation of traffic on city streets.

“I believe what’s the point of having a municipality if you’re not going to organize and establish your own right and regulations,” said Elizabeth LaFlamme.

“The federal government has jurisdictions over the states, states have jurisdictions over the counties, the counties have jurisdictions over their municipalities, so it’s fairly clear that they have the right to impose laws on those municipalities, especially if those laws are voted into law by the voters,” said Roger Dalsky.

The attorney representing the cities filing the lawsuit said the county’s legal authority is very clear.

“The state can dictate what cities are authorized to do or prohibit the cities from doing things. There’s nothing in the Missouri Constitution that provides the county to do the same thing,” said attorney John Young.

I’m not familiar enough with the Missouri state Constitution to evaluate this argument. I don’t know that an absence of explicit mention of county authority implies that they have no authority. The authority might have been considered inherent in the concept of a county and unnecessary to specify. Also, I know from my experience in a couple of Missouri counties that counties have their own police departments, so they do regulate traffic. I had never researched whether a county police officer’s ability to enforce the law ends as soon as he enters a town with its own police department within the county. Those rules and regulations would be important to consider.

[See also, “Speed Cameras are Watching You and Charging Big Bucks.”]

But while the legal principle is interesting, there is no question that these politicians filing the lawsuit are morally bankrupt.

First, they are claiming the red light cameras are about safety rather than revenue, so we know they are liars.

Second, it is virtually certain that every one of these towns contains a majority who voted in favor of the ban. These men are using the town revenues plundered from this majority (i.e. taxes) in order to sue that majority and overturn their will in this matter.

That doesn’t disprove their legal case, but it discredits their moral character. I hope these same majorities find new leadership at the next elections. It is bad enough to have a minority group willing to impose unwanted revenue traps on the majority. It is worse to hear them pretend that it is for your safety. But it is far worse for them to leverage you as taxpayers in order to defeat your vote for your own freedom.