11/1/2013Iowa Speed Cameras Face Legal, Regulatory Siege
Speed camera cities battle Iowa Transportation Department and the county court.
The Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT) on Thursday closed the public comment period on its proposed new rules for the use of speed cameras on state-controlled roads. Officials intend to rein in the use of automated enforcement for the purpose of generating revenue by requiring engineering justifications before permission to use cameras will be granted (view rules). At a public hearing in Ankeny Wednesday, municipal officials showed up in force to express outrage at the possibility that their programs could face such restriction. The department is holding firm.
"In our review of national research reports, it's unclear if automated traffic enforcement cameras are resolving safety concerns and may have negative impacts," Iowa DOT Director Paul Trombino explained in a letter to the Sioux City Journal on Sunday. "Further, automated traffic enforcement systems assess civil fines against the owner of a vehicle and don't appear on a driver's record. Therefore, a vehicle can repeatedly offend with no consequence for the driver. That's likely some of the reasons why only eight states use speed cameras and many ban them."
Cameras in Sioux City are also under legal attack. On June 27, a Woodbury County district court judge found Craig Krueger not guilty after Redflex Traffic Systems of Australia mailed him a ticket. On January 3, 2012, Redflex had photographed an Enterprise Rent-A-Car Toyota Corolla on Interstate 29 traveling an alleged 66 MPH, while the limit is 55 MPH.
Judge John C. Nelson pointed out in his ruling that 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. There was no evidence that a nomination took place. As such, the ticket could not be upheld under the statute. Judge Nelson went further to point out the flaws in the nomination procedures.
"There is no explanation of the process for the same, nor any mention of the rights, obligations, and responsibilities of a 'nominated party,'" Judge Nelson wrote. "For example, can a nominated party decline nomination? And if so, how? Does the act of nominating a party by the registered owner relieve the registered owner of further responsibility? What is the authority for the city to allow the transference of an 'in rem' liability by a second party (the registered owner) to a third party (not the registered owner)?"
Sioux City officials could not let this ruling stand, so an appeal is pending.
"The city admits that some of the language on the standard notice of violation form could be clarified," assistant city attorney Ryan Wiesen wrote in a brief to the court in October. "But this should not be a fatal blow to the city's case, as it has not infringed or prejudiced the substantial rights of Mr. Krueger... The very fact that Mr. Krueger was present in court is itself evidence that he accepted responsibility for the violation."
A copy of the June ruling is available in a 160k PDF file at the source link below.