Don’t say state auditor Tom Schweich is going to audit ten Missouri speed traps. He’s going to make sure ten municipal courts are follow a state law that limits the use of speeding tickets to pay city bills.
The notorious Lake Ozark-area speed trap of Mack’s Creek so incensed state lawmakers that they passed a law almost twenty years ago limiting the percent of a community’s budget that could be financed with traffic tickets. The law has been tightened since then and an even lower limit has been set.
Schweich is sending staff members to check the records of ten municipal courts to see if they’re ignoring the law. He says one person who contacted him told of being stopped in a town where the speed limit sign was obscured suggested the sign be put in a more visible position. The complaining motorist told Schweich the officer responded, “If we did that, I’d be out of a job.”
The list is based on hotline complaints and studies that indicate a per-capita ticket rate greater that a community’s population might warrant. Most of the communities are small ones where Schweich says the pressure might be greatest to raise money to finance basic community service. The courts to be audited are: Mosby, Leadington, Linn Creek, Foristell, Winfield, Foley, Ferguson, St. Ann, Bella Vista, and Pine Lawn.
If more than thirty percent of a city’s budget comes from traffic violations, the city must refund the overage to the state. If it doesn’t, the state can end the municipal court’s authority to handle those tickets. Schweich calls that a strong incentive to follow the law.