Glass v. City of Montgomery, 1200240

CourtSupreme Court of Alabama
Writing for the CourtSTEWART, JUSTICE.
PartiesRichard Stephen Glass v. City of Montgomery
Decision Date11 February 2022
Docket Number1200240

Richard Stephen Glass

City of Montgomery

No. 1200240

Supreme Court of Alabama

February 11, 2022

Appeal from Montgomery Circuit Court (CV-18-79)



Richard Stephen Glass appeals from a judgment of the Montgomery Circuit Court ("the trial court") upholding the constitutionality of a municipal ordinance and a corresponding local act that authorize automated photographic enforcement of traffic-light violations within the corporate limits of the City of Montgomery ("the City"). Glass claims that the ordinance and the local act violate Art. VI, §§ 89, 104, and 105, Ala. Const. 1901 (Off. Recomp.). For the reasons below, we affirm the trial court's judgment.

Facts and Procedural History

In 2007, the City enacted Ordinance No. 10-2007 ("the Ordinance"), which established a traffic-light camera system and instituted civil penalties for traffic-light violations recorded on that system. In 2009, the Alabama Legislature enacted Act No. 2009-740, Ala. Acts 2009, a local act known as the "Montgomery Red Light Safety Act" ("the Act"), which ratified and validated the Ordinance "ab initio." See Title to Act No. 2009-740.

On August 7, 2017, Glass ran a red light at an intersection within the corporate limits of the City. The automated camera equipment at the


intersection detected and photographed Glass's vehicle running the red light. As a result, the City issued Glass a civil citation. In response to his citation, Glass requested and attended an administrative hearing in the Montgomery Municipal Court ("the municipal court").

At the hearing, Glass did not dispute that his vehicle was photographed running the red light. Instead, Glass challenged the constitutionality of the Ordinance and the Act. The municipal court concluded that it lacked jurisdiction to decide Glass's constitutional claims, and it found Glass liable for the red-light violation.

Glass timely appealed that finding of liability to the trial court on February 5, 2018. After an initial hearing, the trial court stayed the proceedings pending this Court's resolution of the consolidated appeals in City of Montgomery v. Hunter, 319 So.3d 1213 (Ala. 2020), in which one of the plaintiffs had challenged the constitutionality of the Ordinance and the Act on the same grounds as Glass. Following this Court's decision in Hunter, in which this Court determined that the plaintiff challenging the constitutionality of the Ordinance and the Act had mooted the controversy between the parties by paying the civil penalty and accepting liability


under the Ordinance and the Act, proceedings in the trial court resumed. After a bench trial, the trial court entered a final judgment in favor of the City on December 14, 2020. This appeal followed.

Standard of Review

There are no disputed facts in this case. Therefore, our review of the trial court's judgment on the constitutionality of the Ordinance and the Act is de novo. Richards v. Izzi, 819 So.2d 25, 29 n.3 (Ala. 2001). This Court also applies" '" 'every presumption and intendment in favor of [the] validity [of state laws].'" '" Clay Cnty. Comm'n v. Clay Cnty. Animal Shelter, Inc., 283 So.3d 1218, 1229 (Ala. 2019) (quoting Magee v. Boyd, 175 So.2d 79, 107 (Ala. 2015), quoting in turn McInnish v. Riley, 925 So.2d 174, 178 (Ala. 2005), quoting in turn Alabama State Fed'n of Labor v. McAdory, 246 Ala. 1, 9, 18 So.2d 810, 815 (1944)).

This Court will sustain a legislative act" 'unless it is clear beyond reasonable doubt that it is violative of the fundamental law.'" White v. Reynolds Metals Co., 558 So.2d 373, 383 (Ala. 1989) (quoting McAdory, 246 Ala. at 9, 18 So.2d at 815). However, "[i]f a legislative act is repugnant to the Constitution," we have a "duty, when the issue is


properly presented, to declare it so." Peddycoart v. City of Birmingham, 354 So.2d 808, 811 (Ala. 1978).


Glass presents three issues for our consideration: (1) whether the Act violates § 105, which prohibits certain local laws, (2) whether the Ordinance and the Act violate § 89, which prohibits the authorization of municipal laws that are inconsistent with the State's general laws, and (3) whether the Act violates § 104, which prohibits local laws that fix the punishment for a crime.

A. The Act

Section 2 of the Act sets forth, among others, the following legislative findings:

"(1) Accident data establishes that vehicles running red lights have been and are a dangerous problem in Montgomery, Alabama.
"(2) Studies have found that automated traffic camera enforcement in a municipal area is a highly accurate method for detecting red light violations and is very effective in reducing the number of red light violations and decreasing the number of traffic accidents, deaths, and injuries.
"(3) Current Alabama law provides that failing to stop and remain stopped at a traffic-control signal which is emitting a steady red signal is a criminal misdemeanor. Under Alabama law one who commits such a misdemeanor is subject to prosecution only if the misdemeanor was witnessed by either a duly empowered police officer or other witness who makes a verified complaint to a sworn magistrate."

Although § 2 of the Act acknowledges that existing Alabama law designates running a red traffic light to be a criminal misdemeanor, § 3 of the Act provides that any traffic-signal violation under certain provisions of the Alabama Rules of the Road Act ("the ARRA"), § 32-5A-1 et seq., Ala. Code 1975, will also be designated as a civil violation for purposes of the Act:

"(3) CIVIL VIOLATION. There is hereby created a non-criminal category of state law called a civil violation created and existing for the sole purpose of carrying out the terms of this act. The penalty for violation of a civil violation shall be the payment of a civil fine, the enforceability of which shall be accomplished through civil action. The prosecution of a civil violation created hereby shall carry reduced evidentiary requirements and burden of proof as set out in Section 6, and in no event shall an adjudication of liability for a civil violation be punishable by a criminal fine or imprisonment.
"(7) TRAFFIC SIGNAL VIOLATION. Any violation of Section 32-5A-31, Section 32-5A-32, or Section 32-5A-5, Code
of Alabama 1975, or of any combination thereof, wherein a vehicle proceeds into a signalized intersection at a time while the traffic-control signal for that vehicle's lane of travel is emitting a steady red signal. A traffic signal violation shall be a civil violation as defined in this act."
Section 4 of the Act provides, in pertinent part:
"(a) The City of Montgomery is empowered to utilize an automated photographic traffic signal enforcement system to detect and record traffic signal violations, to issue notices of civil violations by mail, and to prosecute civil violations for the recorded traffic signal violations which may occur within the corporate limits of the City of Montgomery as provided in this act. A civil fine assessed under this act shall not exceed one hundred dollars ($l00), and municipal court costs may be assessed in the same manner and in the same amounts prescribed for a municipal criminal traffic-control device violation prosecuted as a misdemeanor under Sections 32-5A-31, 32-5A-32, 32-5A-35, or any combination thereof. An additional fee of ten dollars ($10) shall be added to the Montgomery Municipal Court costs authorized to be collected in connection with notices issued under this act. Court costs collected pursuant to this act shall be distributed in the same manner as prescribed by law for the distribution of municipal court costs for misdemeanor violations."

Section 5 of the Act outlines the procedures for assessing and satisfying a civil penalty under the Act. Section 6, among other things, vests the municipal court with the jurisdiction to adjudicate civil violations under the Act. Section 7 provides the right of appeal to the trial


court for a trial de novo. Section 10 provides, in pertinent part, that "[n]o person may be arrested or incarcerated for nonpayment of a civil fine or late fee." Section 13 provides, in pertinent part, that "[n]o civil penalty may be imposed and no adjudication of liability for a civil violation may [be] made under this act if the operator of the vehicle was arrested or was issued a citation and notice to appear by a sworn police officer for a criminal violation of any portion of Article II, Chapter 5A, Title 32 .... "

B. Section 105

Glass contends that the general laws provide for the conduct at issue in this case -- running a red light -- and that the Act consequently violates § 105 by addressing a "case" that is already provided for by the general laws. Section 105 provides:

"No special, private, or local law, except a law fixing the time of holding courts, shall be enacted in any case which is provided for by a general law, or when the relief sought can be given by any court of this state; and the courts, and not the legislature, shall judge as to whether the matter of said law is provided for by a general law, and as to whether the relief sought can be given by any court; nor shall the legislature indirectly enact any such special, private, or local law by the partial repeal of a general law."

(Emphasis added.) The general laws implicated in this case include


various provisions of Alabama's motor-vehicle and traffic code, Title 32 of the Alabama Code of 1975. The ARRA, a part of the motor-vehicle and traffic code, broadly governs the operation of vehicles on Alabama roadways. Section 32-5A-31, Ala. Code 1975, addresses traffic-signal enforcement and provides, in pertinent part:

"(a) The driver of any vehicle shall obey the instructions of any official traffic-control device applicable thereto placed in

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT