ST. LOUIS • The City of St. Louis pledged on Wednesday that it will refund roughly $5.6 million to motorists who paid red-light camera tickets in the last 18 months.
On Tuesday, the Missouri Supreme Court struck down the ordinance governing red-light cameras in St. Louis, and the city’s red-light camera program was immediately shut down. All pending cases were dismissed.
Refunding Red-Light Tickets In St. Louis
Now, St. Louis begins the daunting task of returning the money paid over the last 18 months by offending drivers. Officials say they are still considering the best way to do it — all while contemplating the creation of a new red-light camera ordinance that can pass legal muster.
Full refunds will go only to motorists who paid tickets between Feb. 14, 2014 and this past Tuesday, August 18th.People who paid tickets before that period will not be eligible for a refund. Instead, motorists who paid red-light tickets prior to that were eligible for a class-action settlement that amounted to about $20 per ticket.
City Issued Tickets Throughout Debate
In February of last year, Ohmer allowed the city to continue issuing tickets. However, it was ordered that the money collected be placed in an escrow account that could be returned if the city lost the appeal.
This week, Maggie Crane, the spokeswoman for St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay explained that “We can only give refunds to the backdate of when the escrow account was created.”
The state’s high court ended all debate on Tuesday when it said the ordinance “is unconstitutional because it creates a rebuttable presumption that improperly shifts the burden of persuasion onto the defendant to prove that he or she was not operating the motor vehicle at the time of the violation.” Such was the case for Sarah Tupper and Sandra Thurmond, who were both issued tickets after their vehicles were photographed running red lights. Both defendants said someone else was driving at the time.
Establishing A Refund System
“We will follow the spirit of the law,” Crane said. “We just don’t know how the mechanics will work.”
Crane said that while the city could contact people by mail, that could prove complicated because some people have moved to different addresses. She said the city is considering setting up a website where motorists could go to claim refunds, similar to how governments return unclaimed property.
Additionally, the city will return any payments that could have been in the mail when the ordinance was struck down.
City Claims Cameras Are A Public Safety Measure
While their use is temporarily halted, St. Louis won’t be taking red light cameras down just yet. Instead, Mayor Slay’s office is considering ways in which they can use the cameras with Tuesday’s judicial ruling in mind.
Crane said the cameras are a public safety measure because statistics show they reduce accidents at high-traffic intersections and can also be used by police to help solve crimes.