12/3/2013Iowa Appellate Judge Upholds Anti-Traffic Camera Ruling
Sioux City, Iowa loses appeal of decision that undermines the use of automated ticketing machines.
The days of speed camera use in Sioux City, Iowa may be numbered. In the face of widening criticism from state officials, including Governor Terry Branstad (R), the city last month lost its appeal of a decision that found the ordinance establishing the automated ticketing program failed to establish the guilt of the accused.
In June Woodbury County District Court Judge John C. Nelson tossed the ticket that Redflex Traffic Systems of Australia issued to Craig Krueger after his Toyota Corolla rental car was photographed on Interstate 29 (view ruling). The city immediately challenged the finding, and upon review, District Court Judge Edward A. Jacobson found the city attorney's arguments entirely missed the point.
"Ironically, the briefs of both parties deal with the constitutionality of the municipal ordinance in question and issues of whether the Code Section 10.12.080 was either void for vagueness or violated procedural due process standards," Judge Jacobson wrote in his November 22 appellate ruling. "Judge Nelson neither found the statute void for vagueness nor a violation of procedural due process."
Sioux City's speed camera ordinance says that the registered owner should be sent a ticket and that owner alone can "nominate" someone else to receive the citation. The evidence presented at trial showed the $168 ticket was issued directly to Krueger, not the registered owner, Enterprise Rent-a-Car. There was no evidence that a nomination took place. As such, the ticket could not be upheld under the statute.
"While clearly Judge Nelson's opinion leaves open the possibility that the ordinance could be found unconstitutionally vague, it is not necessary for this court to address the constitutionality issue," Judge Jacobson concluded. "The associate district court found that the city had failed to prove that the defendant was either the owner of the vehicle or a nominated party under the ordinance. This court agrees that no evidence of either is in the record of these proceedings."
Iowa's legislature never gave cities permission to use red light cameras and speed cameras. Instead, the state Supreme Court in 2008 ruled that a city ordinance implementing the use of photo ticketing did not conflict with state law (view ruling). The high court was very clear in its ruling that it only considered a "narrow legal issue" and that the issue should be settled by voters and the legislature.
A copy of the ruling is available in a 90k PDF file at the source link below.