I received an email from Beth Riggert, Communications Counsel for the Missouri Supreme Court, noting today’s Missouri Supreme Court decision in the Springfield red-light camera case, City of Springfield, Missouri v. Adolph Belt, Jr. Riggert’s email noted that neither her email nor the summary of the case were to be quoted (does anyone know why this is the case?), but here is an excerpt from the decision:
This is a $100 case. But sometimes, it’s not the money – it’s the principle. When Adolph Belt, Jr., a 30-year veteran of the Missouri State Highway Patrol and a former Kansas City police officer, received a notice that his car had been photographed running a red light in Springfield, he did not take the matter lightly. Undeniably a traffic expert, Belt timed the yellow caution light at the intersection and found that it was rather quick. He also concluded that the stoplight and the cameras needed to be synchronized.
The Springfield city code provides that hearings for violations of this ordinance are to be heard in an administrative proceeding. In Belt’s proceeding, the hearing examiner denied Belt’s challenge to his citation and found him liable for the prescribed $100 penalty. Belt then appealed, requesting a trial de novo before the circuit court. The circuit court dismissed the request for a trial de novo, finding it had no jurisdiction to hear the appeal. Belt now appeals the circuit court’s dismissal, arguing he is entitled to a trial de novo for a municipal ordinance violation.
Violations of municipal ordinances such as this one cannot be determined administratively but must be heard in a division of the circuit court. Section 479.010, RSMo Supp. 2009.1 The administrative proceeding is void, and Belt’s $100 penalty is vacated.
You can also listen to the audio of the oral arguments here.