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Roeder v. City of St. Peters

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

August 17, 2016

BONNIE A. ROEDER, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF ST. PETERS, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          RODNEY W. SIPPEL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Bonnie Roeder filed this lawsuit in state court against Defendants- the City of St. Peters, Missouri (the City), and Greg White, the court administrator for St. Peters-for false arrest, deprivation of due process, and malicious prosecution. Roeder’s claims stem from her arrest and prosecution for failing to appear in municipal court on a traffic violation. Defendants removed the case based on federal question jurisdiction and moved to dismiss Roeder’s claims. I will dismiss Roeder’s federal claims and remand her state law claim to state court.

         Legal Standard

         In ruling on a motion to dismiss, I must accept as true all factual allegations in the complaint and view them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Kohl v. Casson, 5 F.3d 1141, 1148 (8th Cir. 1993). “To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.’” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)).

         Background

         The City had a red light camera ticket program established by City Ordinance 4536. According to Roeder’s complaint, the program worked as follows. A third party vendor installed red light cameras to record traffic at intersections in the City. Employees of the third party vendor reviewed the videos and, if they saw a potential violation, sent the City information about the owner of the car and a video clip of the alleged violation. A City police officer would view the video and independently determine whether a red light violation occurred.

         If the officer concluded there was a violation, the officer would determine whether the driver of the vehicle was the owner of the vehicle based on the auto ownership record and the driver’s license photo of the owner. If the officer believed the owner was the driver, the officer would sign a Notice of Violation directed to the owner. The City would then send the owner a Notice of Violation of running a red light and demand a fine of $110.00. No points were assessed against the owner’s driver license for these violations.

         If the owner did not pay the fine, the City sent a notice directing the owner to appear in municipal court at a specific date and time. If the owner failed to appear, the City sent the owner a second notice with a new court date. The second notice stated that if the owner failed to appear in court, the City would issue a warrant for the owner’s arrest for Failure to Appear. If the owner failed to appear at the second court setting, the city administrator would prepare an application for an arrest warrant for Failure to Appear. The municipal judge would independently determine whether to issue the arrest warrant for Failure to Appear. If the judge decided to issue the warrant, the judge would sign it and the warrant would issue.

         On June 7, 2012, Roeder ran a red light in St. Peters. A red light camera recorded the violation. The City sent Roeder a Notice of Violation and demand for the $110.00 fine. Roeder did not respond or pay the fine. The City then sent Roeder its first notice to appear in court for the red light violation. Roeder did not appear in court. The City sent Roeder its second notice, which informed Roeder that a warrant for her arrest “on the additional charge of Failure to Appear” would issue if she failed to appear in court on September 11, 2012. Roeder failed to appear at the second court date. The court administrator, Defendant White, then swore out a “Complaint, Affidavit and Information” stating:

Comes now Greg M. White, Court Administrator 1020 Grand Teton, St. Peters, MO 63376 And being duly sworn, on oath, complains that on or about September 18 (sic), 2012, at or near St. Peters City Hall located within the corporate limits of the City of St. Peters, Missouri, the above named Defendant [Roeder] did then and there unlawfully FAIL TO APPEAR in the St. Peters Municipal Division of the 11th Judicial Circuit Court of St. Charles County in response to a notice of summons number(s)
STP021020 Red Light Camera
in violation of Ordinance #442 of the City of St. Peters, Missouri.

         At that time, the City did not have an ordinance making failure to appear an offense. Ordinance 442 contained no section or subsection making failure to appear an offense. In October 2012, the city municipal judge signed and issued the warrant for Roeder’s arrest. Roeder was arrested on the warrant a few weeks later while driving in Creve Coeur, Missouri. She was held in custody for about three hours and released after posting a $210.00 bond.

         The City prosecuted Roeder on the red light camera ticket and on a separate charge of “failure to appear.” A jury trial was held on September 4 and 5, 2013. At the close of the evidence, the trial judge acquitted Roeder of the failure to appear charge after the City’s attorney acknowledged the City did not have an ordinance making failure to appear an offense. The jury found Roeder guilty of the red light violation, and a $110.00 fine was assessed.[1] The trial judge dismissed the red light camera charge on Roeder’s post-trial motion. The City appealed that dismissal to the Missouri Supreme Court. The Court severed the provision of the City’s red light camera ordinance which prohibited the assessment of points against a violator’s driver’s ...


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