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Friday, April 6, 2007

Photo-cop ordinances not worth 1,000 words

The Minnesota Supreme Court struck down the Minneapolis “photo-cop” ordinances on the ground that they conflict with state law regulating traffic.

The decision affirms the Court of Appeals, which had decided the case on the same grounds and which had affirmed a Hennepin County District Court judge.

The ordinances imposed a petty misdemeanor penalty on the owner of a car that was photographed running a red light, even where the owner was not the driver.

The Supreme Court said that the ordinances conflict with the Minnesota Traffic Regulations Act, which requires uniformity of traffic regulations throughout the state. The Legislature has preempted the field of traffic regulation, and the ordinances are not authorized by the statute, wrote Justice Sam Hanson for the court. Furthermore, they conflict with the statute by creating owner liability for traffic violations and are restricted to Minneapolis. Additionally, the ordinances only impose liability on owners, leading to a presumption that the owner is the driver.

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