After ruling last week that the City of St. Louis’ red-light camera operation is illegal, Judge Steven Ohmer has put a temporary hold on his decision, effectively reinstating the red-light cameras in the City until further notice. The City can continue enforcing violations and collecting fines, but these fines must be placed in an escrow account. The fines will be returned to drivers in the event that Judge Ohmer’s decision is upheld on appeal. Our ability to not have to come to a complete stop for 5 seconds before taking a right on red was fun while it lasted…
After last year’s incredibly warm winter, which featured only a couple of days of snow quickly followed by 50-degree days which melted any accumulation, this winter has been harsh to say the least. Snow and ice have covered the ground for the better part of 2 months, and we’re only halfway through February. And with all of this ice and snow has come an increase in ice- and snow- related slip-and-fall calls to our office.
There certainly appears to be a giant misconception among people who unfortunately slip and fall as a result of ice and snow at local businesses or on sidewalks. After calling 911 or their regular doctor, their next phone call is often to an attorney’s office, hoping to make a nice payday for their troubles. Unfortunately, this is not always the way it works out.
In Missouri, property owners generally do not have a duty to remove NATURAL ACCUMULATIONS of ice, snow or water. This is because ice and/or snow creates a hazard for anyone who encounters it, and just because it is on someone’s property doesn’t make that property owner liable. And it would be unreasonable to expect a person or business owner to stand outside throughout a long snow storm and continually shovel snow. If, however, the owner does something that makes the accumulation no longer natural (inadequate shoveling or snow removal efforts, substandard gutter drainage or blocked drains, installing an awning which allows snow to drip and freeze, uneven land grading, etc.), the owner could be liable. For a business, this is especially true, as most businesses have the express goal of getting you to actually come inside their business.
This conflicts somewhat with local ordinances (ex: St. Louis and Columbia) which require snow and ice removal “immediately . . . after any fall of snow…”. Indeed, this is a confusing area of the law, and it would be impossible to determine if a property owner or business owner is liable for your injuries without meeting with an experienced attorney to dissect every aspect of your claim. If you have slipped and fell on ice or snow this winter and you feel that this is the result of a negligent act by a homeowner or business, contact our office today and we can talk about your situation.
A St. Louis city judge yesterday ruled that the city’s red-light camera enforcement is invalid and that the city may no longer send violation notices, process payments, or send collection notices for unpaid fines. In a lengthy 18-page opinion, Judge Steven Ohmer struck down the city’s red-light program pending, most certainly, the final say by the Missouri Supreme Court.
The city of Arnold, the first city in the St.Louis area to implement red-light cameras, has announced that they will continue to issue red-light camera violations despite neighboring cities ditching their programs altogether. However, in a puzzling move, the city has decided to dismiss their red-light camera tickets for those who show up on their court night to protest their citations.
As always, these tickets do not put points on your license, regardless of where you receive one. But now in Arnold, you have 2 choices: show up on your court night and have the ticket automatically dismissed; or, stay home on court night and pay the $94.50 fine. The city has said that all fines paid for these tickets will not be returned, pending further developments. So if you receive a red-light camera ticket in the city of Arnold, apparently the only question you need to ask yourself is: “How much is my time worth?”
Mentioned this on Twitter earlier this month, but if you didn’t see it, check out this article and the accompanying video about a very innovative program designed to combat drunk driving in Belgium. Forget for a moment the myriad reasons why this would not work in every single parking lot in America. But consider how this could be the start of similar devices being implemented in parking lots surrounding large areas such as stadiums, amphitheaters, large public parking garages, etc. If there was no penalty for blowing over the legal limit upon leaving the lot (and no officer waiting at the exit to nab you if you blew over the limit), would these devices be welcomed in our country? Something to think about as we begin the Super Bowl weekend. Enjoy the game everyone!
Late last night, Justice Samuel Alito issued an order to temporarily stay the execution of a Missouri man that was scheduled to take place at 12:01am this morning. The inmate, Herbert Smulls, was convicted of murdering a Chesterfield jewelry store owner and seriously injuring his wife during a robbery in 1991. The reason Mr. Smulls was given at least a few more days to live: our State’s refusal to name where it received the lethal-injection drug. Smulls’ attorney argued that refusing to disclose where the drug comes from and the exact chemical makeup of the drug violates her client’s 8th Amendment right against cruel and unusual punishment. She argued that failing to disclose this information would subject her client to an “excruciating death”.
Missouri on the other hand argued that there is already a statute in place that prohibits naming members of the “execution team” which applies to the pharmacy that supplies the drug. Attorney General Chris Koster went on to say that where the drug is purchased and what exactly it consists of can rightly be considered a “state secret” that does not need to be revealed for general security purposes.
What do you think? Does it really matter where we get our lethal injection drugs or what they consist of? If a convicted murdered who has been sentenced to death for atrocious crimes suffers the “excruciating death” that his attorney claims will be the result of our state’s omission, is that a big deal?
This morning the Missouri Court of Appeals issued an opinion regarding the speed cameras used by the city of Moline Acres. In what I suppose could be considered a high-profile (for St. Louis, anyway) case, the Defendant in this case was local media personality Charlie Brennan. Brennan received a ticket and a fine in the amount of $124 for running through a speed camera while allegedly traveling 56 mph in a 40 mph zone. Brennan appealed this violation to the Circuit Court, and the ticket was dismissed last spring.
On appeal, the appeals court affirmed this decision, citing their recent Ellisville case from last November. In both cases, the Court held that these cameras conflict with state law in that they permit something that state law prohibits (“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”). In other words, state law does not allow for the owner (and thus not necessarily the driver) to be punished, and therefore a local city law cannot enact a law that differs from this.
This is yet another good sign for Missouri drivers. The Missouri Supreme Court should have the final say on the legality of these cameras sometime this year.
Missouri has a relatively new (and rarely if ever enforced) law that bans texting-and-driving, statewide, for drivers under the age of 21. In a February post on this blog, it was revealed that “fewer than 4 people a month” have been cited since the law was enacted in 2009. Few drivers, and even fewer officers, seem to even know that the law exists. Missouri is only one of nine states that does not have have an across-the-board statewide ban on texting-and-driving. But signs are now pointing towards a shift in Missouri’s prevention of this dangerous activity that we’re all guilty of from time to time.
Yesterday, the West County suburb of Manchester became the most high-profile municipality in the area to enact a texting-and-driving law. The new law makes it illegal for ANYONE, regardless of age, to use handheld devices to send, read, or write a text or email while driving.
Manchester Police chief Mike Walsh told the Post-Dispatch that first offenses will be met with a warning. However, repeated offenses can be costly, with a third offense carrying a penalty of up to a $500 fine and a mandatory 3 days in jail. The law is effective immediately, and Manchester will not post any signs warning drivers of the new law.
As with any traffic offenses, should you fall victim to any traffic violation, regardless of severity, it is important to contact an attorney to save your driving privileges and keep your insurance rates low.
Perhaps due to growing confusion regarding recent rulings on the use of red-light cameras in local municipalities, some local towns, most notably Hazelwood and St. Ann, have temporarily suspended issuing tickets for red-light camera violations. They are following the leads of other Missouri cities such as Columbia and St. Joseph who have decided to hold off on issuing citations until the legal ramifications surrounding their use are more defined.
According to the article in today’s Post-Dispatch, St. Ann is also temporarily suspending the issuance of tickets for drivers who violate their speed cameras until further notice. However, the article also states that these cameras will not be turned off, and that images of drivers caught violating traffic laws will be stored for the possible issuance of tickets later on.
These temporarily suspended red-light and speed-cameras are but a few of the devices installed in the region, and it appears a vast majority of these cameras will continue to operate as usual throughout the St. Louis area. These include all cameras in St. Louis City, Bridgeton and Richmond Heights, among others. Red light cameras will also capture images of violators in St. Peters, where last week it was ruled that violators will now receive two points on their driver’s record for running a red-light.
Earlier this week, the St. Peters Board of Alderman voted to remove a ban on points being assessed on driver’s records of drivers cited for red-light camera violations. Like other municipalities, St. Peters had a policy in place whereby red-light camera violations only came with a monetary fine, and were treated as no-point, non-moving violations. Late last month, a Circuit Court judge in St. Charles County ruled that the St. Peters law banning the issuance of points for what is, in every sense of the word, a “moving violation” conflicts with a similar state law provision. If you are the unlucky recipient of a St. Peters red-light camera ticket, give us a call to keep these points off of your driver’s record.