Missouri Sues Cities for ‘Predatory’ Tickets

     CLAYTON, Mo. (CN) – Missouri’s attorney general on Thursday sued 13 St. Louis County cities for alleged “predatory traffic ticketing” in their municipal courts.
     Attorney General Chris Koster said the municipalities violate the Macks Creek law.
     The law states that no municipality may receive more than 30 percent of its annual revenue from fines, and that court costs for traffic violations and fines in excess of 30 percent must be turned over to the director of revenue to be distributed among local school districts.
     The defendant cities include Beverly Hills, Pagedale, Breckenridge Hills, Pasadena Park, Upland Park, Crystal Lake, Velda Village Hills, the village of Hillsdale, the village of Mackenzie, Bellerive Acres, Moline Acres, Normandy and the village of Vinita Terrace.
     Macks Creek law requires every city to file an accurate annual financial report to the state auditor. Failure to file could cause that city’s municipal court to lose jurisdiction over traffic-related offenses.
     “The Macks Creek law was enacted to protect Missourians from predatory traffic ticketing,” Koster said in a statement. “As we continue to identify areas for reform, an important first step is to require St. Louis County municipalities to follow the Macks Creek law to the letter. Based on my review, these 13 municipalities did not.”
     Koster said that Beverly Hills and Pagedale did not submit annual reports for 2014 and that Breckenridge Hills, Pasadena Park and Upland Park didn’t submit their report for 2013.
     He said that Crystal Lake, Velda Village Hills, the village of Hillsdale and the village of Mackenzie failed to disclose how much of their operating revenue was derived from fines and court costs.
     Koster claims that Bellerive Acres, Moline Acres, Normandy, and the village of Vinita Terrace receive more than 30 percent of their revenue from traffic fines, and that investigators believe more than 50 percent of Vinita Terrace’s revenue comes from traffic fines.
     St. Louis County has dozens of municipalities, each with its own traffic court. It is not uncommon to drive through multiple municipalities with fluctuating speed limits within a few miles on a single road.
     Protesters in Ferguson, sparked by the shooting death of Michael Brown, have complained about getting repeated traffic tickets and fines in the various municipal courts. Some protesters said the cities are exploiting them for financial gain instead of enforcing laws for safety.
     Koster seeks declaratory judgment that the municipalities violate the Macks Creek law, an injunction and disgorgement of revenue collected in excess of the 30 percent cap.
     “If these municipalities will work with my office to come into compliance, we will work with them,” Koster said. “If they fail to work with us, or simply do not have the ability to comply with state law, then they should lose jurisdiction over traffic violations.”

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