1905, 2015

A Closer Look at Senate Bill 5

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It's rare to see a bill receive any type of bipartisan support in Jefferson City, but that is what happened earlier this month with the passage of Senate Bill 5. This is good news for all citizens of this state, especially those in St. Louis County who have been brutally ripped off for years by greedy municipalities trying to meet their bottom lines. Senate Bill 5 was signed by Governor Nixon last week, and while the bill has a lengthy list of reforms, the key points you should know include: - The amount of traffic-related revenue collected by local governments [...]

2104, 2015

Supreme Court: If A Cop Wants to Use a Drug-Sniffing Dog During A Traffic Stop, Make It Quick

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Score another victory for supporters of the Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable searches. This year's term of the U.S. Supreme Court has been kind to supporters of the Fourth Amendment. The Court today held in a 6-3 decision that police may not extend a traffic stop in order to wait for drug-sniffing dogs when there is no probable cause to search the vehicle. The Court's majority opinion held "that a police stop exceeding the time needed to handle the matter for which the stop was made violates the Constitution's shield against unreasonable searches." As such, once a driver is pulled [...]

1004, 2015

Most Fines in Nearly Every County Municipal Court Will Now Be Uniform

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Another major reform to St. Louis County's many municipal courts was announced last night by the St. Louis County Municipal Court Improvement Committee. No longer will certain fines like speeding, driving without insurance, red light violations, etc. vary by hundreds of dollars depending on where the ticket is issued. Instead, it was announced last night that 80 of our 82 municipal courts have agreed to issue uniform fine and court costs amounts for most ordinance violations. Under this new standard, fines are $70.50 plus court costs for most routine moving violations (speeding, lane violations, illegal u-turns, etc.), and $50.50 for [...]

2703, 2015

National Media’s Scrutiny of Our Municipal Courts Extends Beyond Ferguson

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After the Department of Justice's Report on Ferguson was released earlier this month, news outlets worldwide broke down the scathing report and often added their own stories of just how terrible this court has treated defendants. We all know that these problems are by no means limited to Ferguson. Go five miles in any direction from Ferguson and you can see the same unconstitutional practices happening on a daily basis. This story on the Huffington Post this morning illustrates some troubling but all-too-common instances of injustice in "cities" like Pasadena Hills, Pine Lawn, and Jennings. It's a bit of a [...]

1003, 2015

Fallout From DOJ Report Leads to Big Changes in Local Courts

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By now you've probably read, or at least have heard of some of the findings, of the Department of Justice's Ferguson Report that was released last week. It was all kinds of terrible, and exposed many things that attorneys who represent clients in Ferguson and surrounding courts have known about for years. After the report was issued, every attorney that I talked to had many ideas of what some of the fallout would be, but just about everyone agreed that huge changes would come as a result of such an embarrassing report made public for the world to see. The [...]

1401, 2015

Have You Ever Received a Red-Light Camera Ticket? Here’s How to Get Some of Your Money Back.

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Since red-light cameras were implemented in the Missouri area 10 years ago, nearly 1 million drivers have received red-light camera tickets in nearly 30 municipalities statewide. A settlement reached late last year in St. Louis County grants drivers who paid fines prior to November 21, 2014 a 20% refund on the fines that they have paid. Nearly every city's fine that we've seen have been for an even $100, so if you've paid one of these annoying tickets, you have most likely received a postcard in the mail and are entitled to at least $20. If you haven't received your [...]

901, 2015

MO Supreme Court Ruling Helps Low-Income Defendants Pay Their Court Fines

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Late last month, the Missouri Supreme Court issued an order that said that when a defendant in a municipal court does not have the money to pay his/her fines, the court must either a.) give the person more time to pay; or, b.) allow the person to set up a payment plan that works with the person's financial situation. This long-overdue policy change is a direct result of local advocacy groups who demanded changes to municipal court policies in the wake of the Ferguson unrest. Most courts have had payment plan options in place long before the Ferguson unrest, but [...]

3112, 2014

Happy New Year from the Lindley Law Office!

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It's been another great year here in Webster Groves. Thanks to all of our clients, friends and family for a successful 2014. Please be careful if you're out celebrating this evening ringing in 2015. Also, be alert for the city of St. Louis' "No Refusal Zone" if you're out in the city tonight, as explained in this piece on St. Louis Public Radio (and featuring colleague and neighbor John Schleiffarth) See you in 2015!

1812, 2014

State Files Lawsuit Against 13 North County Municipal Courts

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13 local beacons of justice have been named in a lawsuit filed by Attorney General Chris Koster this morning alleging, among other things, failure to provide required annual financial reports, deriving too much of their revenue from municipal court fines, and several other offenses that those in the St. Louis legal community have known for years. The State also alleges that due to these violations, these municipal courts have lacked jurisdiction over traffic violations occurring in their towns since as far back as March 1 of this year. The list of cities named as defendants includes: Bellerieve Acres, Beverly Hills, [...]

612, 2014

Wake Up and Help Eradicate Suicide

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While this is in no way law-related, I encourage all of you to take some time and check out this incredible organization that my brother Alex and his talented group of friends have started. They have lost a couple of close friends to suicide while they were students at Mizzou. Both deaths came as a total surprise to everyone, as these young adults were the lives of the party and showed no signs of being suicidal. Rather than allow their friends to become mere statistics, my brother and his friends have decided to start a group to get the uncomfortable [...]

611, 2014

St. Charles County Bans Red Light Cameras

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While the issue of red light cameras has been decided in courtrooms from small municipal courts all the way up to the state Supreme Court in recent years, voters in St. Charles County had a chance to have their voices heard Tuesday when an amendment banning the use of red light cameras was placed on the ballot. And it wasn't even close. Nearly 75% of voters overwhelmingly shot down the use of red light cameras which are currently only in use in one St. Charles County municipality: St. Peters. A permenant state-wide ban could be in place when the Missouri [...]

110, 2014

STL City Recalling Most Non-Violent Muni Court Warrants for Free

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If the headline seems too good to be true, it's not. Indeed, the City Municipal Court announced yesterday that it will be recalling over 200,000 non-violent warrants. If you have one of these warrants, all you need to do is contact the court and schedule a new date before the end of the year. It really does appear to be that simple. If you have a warrant, the Court plans on sending a postcard to the address that they have on file for you. It is then up to you to take this postcard and come to the Municipal Court [...]

2909, 2014

Have You Ever Paid a Red-Light Ticket? You May Be Getting a Refund

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A proposed legal settlement between attorneys for aggrieved drivers and a prominent national red-light camera company could mean money in hundreds of thousands of Missourians' pockets. The proposed settlement amount is for an estimated $16 million, and includes a 20% refund on 800,000 tickets issued from cameras operated by American Traffic Solutions in the St.Louis area since 2005. The proposed settlement will be filed in St. Louis County this week for final approval. The purpose of the settlement is to put an end to several large class-action lawsuits naming American Traffic Solutions as defendants. Check back here for more information [...]

409, 2014

Washington Post Shines a Light on the County Municipal Court System

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There are so many things wrong with the municipal court system in St. Louis County. Some courts are efficient and fair and dispose of justice effectively. Some. But there are over 80 municipal courts in this County, and a majority of these courts and their practices are downright embarrassing. Those of us who represent clients in County municipal courts, and especially the dozens of courts in North County, have known about this sad state of affairs for years. Today, the Washington Post released what I suppose could be termed an "exposé" revealing just how bad things have become in these [...]

1107, 2014

Kirkwood Bans Texting and Driving

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Our neighbors in Kirkwood this week passed an ordinance banning texting and driving for all drivers, regardless of age. State law makes it illegal for drivers under 21 to text or use their smartphones while driving, but in the past few months, several local towns have implemented a ban for all drivers. The question of whether municipalities can enforce harsher restrictions than state laws provide has and will continue to lead to controversy, but in an area with a lot of foot traffic like Kirkwood, this can only be seen as a positive development. Whether officers will actually enforce this [...]

2506, 2014

Supreme Court Rules that Police Must Obtain a Warrant Before Searching Through Your Cell Phone

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In a unanimous decision this morning, the United States Supreme Court held that police must obtain a search warrant before searching through a cell phone seized during an arrest. With all the many things that we store in our cell phones: pictures, messages, emails, bank information etc., it is surprising that before today law enforcement officers did not need a warrant to go through your phone. In fact it was widely assumed by many people that such a requirement was already in place. We've had more than a few consultations with clients where this strange and outdated policy had to [...]

2504, 2014

Proposed Revision to Missouri Criminal Code Does Not Offer Expanded Expungement Option

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After more than 30 years, the Missouri Criminal Code is as close as ever to being revised. Yesterday Missouri lawmakers passed a revision to the Code and have sent it to Governor Nixon for his signature. There are many long-overdue revisions, the summary of which can be found here. It appears as though the sense of optimism that should be present after finally getting to this point has been negated by reports that Governor Nixon will likely oppose signing the bill in its current form. And, even if he does, the revised statutes are not slated to take hold until [...]

1902, 2014

Red-Light Cameras Back on (For Now) in St. Louis; Fines to be Placed in Escrow Account

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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...

1202, 2014

Red-Light Cameras Shut Down in St. Louis

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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.

702, 2014

Received a Red-Light Ticket in Arnold? Show Up to Court and Have it Dismissed

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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 [...]

2901, 2014

US Supreme Court Temporarily Halts Execution of Missouri Man

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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 [...]

1712, 2013

It’s Now Illegal to Text-and-Drive in Manchester

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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 [...]

2111, 2013

Some Local Municipalities to “Temporarily” Stop Issuing Red-Light Camera Tickets

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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 [...]

3110, 2013

Latest Happenings with Red Light and Speed Cameras

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Interesting news regarding citizens' best friends this week.  First, a St. Charles Circuit Court judge dismissed a St. Peters red light ticket on the grounds that the ticket, which does not result in any points for a moving violation, conflicts with the State law that a moving violation SHALL result in points.  The Judge made no decision as to whether the St. Peters ordinance should be voided, but it serves as a useful precedent for future cases. Also, the Riverfront Times featured an article highlighting the latest trick used by our friendly northern suburbs in robbing drivers of an easy [...]

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