Articles tagged with: law

The Last Word on Red Light Cameras in Missouri

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-photography-red-color-traffic-light-image16973177      We previously wrote blogs on various red-light traffic ticket ordinances in Missouri and the fact that the Missouri Court of Appeals has ruled that various ordinances are in conflict with Missouri state law.  One such ordinance that was ruled invalid was the City of Ellisville, Missouri’s ordinance.  The Ellisville City Council just decided to end the use of its red-light cameras and will remove their red-light cameras and terminate their contract with American Traffic Solutions.

     Also, based on the rulings by the Missouri Court of Appeals, various other cities whose ordinances have been determined improper and the company that owns and operates the cameras on the traffic lights appealed the decisions of the Missouri Court of Appeals to the Supreme Court of Missouri.  The City of Kansas City and American Traffic Solutions, Inc. sought transfer to the Missouri Supreme Court, but this was denied.  (SC93907).  The City of Creve Coeur also sought to transfer a case to the Missouri Supreme Court, but that also was denied.  (SC93947).  What is interesting is that in September 2013, the Missouri Court of Appeals ruled that the City of Florissant, Missouri’s red-light camera ordinance was valid, and the plaintiffs who were ticketed appealed to the Supreme Court of Missouri; that request for transfer was denied as well.  What this suggests is that the Supreme Court of Missouri does not wish to hear issues related to red-light traffic tickets, although they could decide to review a case that was decided by the Court of Appeals if the case was decided on constitutional issues.

     It should be also noted that the City of St. Louis has always claimed that their ordinance on red-light traffic tickets was valid since it did not claim that “no points were assessed” but left that decision to the Department of Motor Vehicles.  However, St. Louis City Judge Steven Ohmer, recently ruled that the city ordinance was invalid.  See Sarah Tupper, et al. v. City of St. Louis, et al., 1322-CC10008. The order granted a preliminary and permanent injunction prohibiting the city from enforcing the red-light camera ordinance, sending out any notices of violation, processing payments on tickets, or sending collection letters relating to the tickets.  The St. Louis City announced that it would appeal Judge Ohmer’s decision.    We will continue to watch this matter and update our blog as events develop.

#redlightcamera   #missourilaw

Nothing posted on Evidentiary Matters is to be considered legal advice or advertising.   
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Supreme Court Rules that DOMA Does Not Actually Defend Marriage

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-image-same-sex-marriage-image29055416

The United States Supreme Court’s decision this week in U.S. v. Windsor (related to the Defense of Marriage Act, referred to as “DOMA”) essentially prevents the Federal Government from treating same-sex married couples differently than “traditional” married couples, at least in states where same-sex marriages are recognized and protected by that State’s law. As such, the “benefits” applicable to married couples must be afforded to legally married same-sex couples in those states.

What this decision does not do is force States which do not recognize same-sex marriage to do so. The reason why the latter was not addressed by the Court is because that section of DOMA was not challenged in the underlying case by Edith Windsor, the widow of her same-sex deceased spouse, whose own claim related to the federal estate tax exemption for surviving spouses. Because the Court usually only addresses the narrow questions raised in a given case, it did not, in the Windsor case, address that section of DOMA that deals with State (as opposed to Federal) recognition of same-sex marriages. DOMA was not, therefore, completely invalidated, but it was substantially eviscerated.

What federal benefits are protected? According to the Supreme Court’s written opinion, there are more than 1,000 benefits that inure to married couples (in fact, according to the Government Accounting Office (“GAO”), there are specifically 1,138 federal rights associated with marriage), which now inure to all married couples regardless of whether they have a “traditional” marriage of two members of the opposite sex or a same-sex marriage. Prior to this ruling, DOMA effectively served to deny persons in same-sex marriages, even where recognized by their state’s own laws, these 1000+ benefits, while simultaneously making them available or applicable to opposite-sex married partners.

The impact of the ruling is that Mrs. Windsor, the Petitioner in the case itself, will be entitled to a refund of the $360,000 of estate taxes that she paid upon her spouse’s death, as she is now entitled to claim the “estate tax exemption” applicable to spouses under federal law.
Additionally, a list of the benefits now available to same-sex couples, in small part, includes:

• Social Security and Railroad Retirement benefits
• Veterans’ benefits
• Military service benefits
• Employment benefits
• Immigration benefits, including the right to have an alien spouse remain in the U.S. after marriage.
• Intellectual property benefits
• Medicare benefits
• A host of additional tax benefits.

The additional point to take away from this ruling by the Supreme Court, which is applicable to all Americans, regardless of their opinion on this issue, is that the Federal Government’s use of the state-defined class for the purpose of imposing restrictions and disabilities was inconsistent with Constitutional protections. In essence, the Court effectively said that the Federal government’s application of its law (DOMA) injured a class of persons which the State sought to protect.

We all have differing opinions on this, and many other issues. Regardless of one’s personal opinion, it is interesting to observe our judicial process balance the often competing interests of Federal government, State government, and individuals. In essence, the Supreme Court in Windsor effectively establishes only one type of marriage, at least with regard to applying Federal laws, by deciding that if a marriage is sanctioned by the sovereignty of the State that created it, the Federal Government must concede its validity.

Nothing posted on Evidentiary Matters is to be considered legal advice or advertising.  

The choice of a lawyer is an important decision and should not be based solely upon advertisements.

IS THAT REALLY A POLICE CAR?

No matter where you are, the sight of flashing red and blue lights in your rearview mirror will make your heart race a bit faster. But what if you see those lights and the car is not marked in any way, or does not look like a typical police car?

IS THAT REALLY A POLICE CAR?

Many people, especially women, are taught not to stop if an unmarked car is trying to pull them over – at least not until you can do so in a well-populated or busy area. This suggestion is further advanced by a “story” currently making the rounds on Facebook and other social media sites about a woman being flagged over by a purportedly “unmarked” police car with flashing lights, who smartly dials “112” on her cell phone, putting her in touch with a police dispatcher who tells her that they have no cars in her area. She keeps driving and is finally saved when the real police show up and surround a would-be assailant pretending to be a police officer. While that particular story, and its common variations, may be just urban legend (especially the suggestion that dialing “112” will actually put you in touch with a dispatcher, which is not accurate), there are certainly stories of individuals who have attempted to impersonate police vehicles with light bars or other devices, and attacking people (especially women) who dutifully and automatically pull over at the sight of those lights. So the question remains, what should you do if that situation should arise? And what are the implications if you do NOT pull over and the vehicle is an actual police officer with a legitimate reason to stop you?

One consideration is that “failure to yield” to a police officer, or failure to obey the lawful direction of a police officer is generally a crime (or at the very least, a traffic offense) in most states, and can lead to fines and points or other impact upon one’s driver’s license. Would an actual police officer be understanding of an explanation about your fear of his unmarked vehicle? Will he give you a ticket even though you explain that you were taught by your parents not to pull over for an unmarked “police car”? When personal safety is at issue, and you can’t be completely sure of the motives or legitimacy of a car flashing what appear to be emergency vehicle lights at you, start by turning on your own emergency flashers, so that the “officer” knows you are aware of his presence and aren’t avoiding him. Try to pull over in a well-populated area if possible, or at least in a well-lighted area or a business parking lot. If you aren’t near a well-populated and well-lit spot, or otherwise still question the legitimacy of the vehicle, dial 911 on your cell phone and advise the dispatcher of your location, and that you are being pulled over by a car you cannot identify as an actual police car. At the very least, if it turns out to be an actual police officer decides to give you a ticket for “failure to yield” to him, you will have a timed and documented (911 recording) explanation of your rationale for not immediately doing so, which you or your attorney will likely be able to use to get such a charge thrown out.

Remember, while the odds are that those flashing lights in your rearview mirror is an actual police officer, if the vehicle does not look like a police car, don’t hesitate to think about your safety first.

 

Nothing posted on Evidentiary Matters is to be considered legal advice or advertising.  

The choice of a lawyer is an important decision and should not be based solely upon advertisements.