2/24/2017Iowa Appeals Court Defends Speed Cameras
Appellate panel in Iowa tosses two lawsuits against the use of interstate speed cameras.
Photo radar has some big fans at the Iowa Appeals Court. A three-judge panel on Wednesday tossed a class action suit against speed camera use in Cedar Rapids and, in a separate case, the same panel upheld the principles behind the city's automated ticketing program. At issue were the $75 tickets issued by the Swedish firm Sensys Gatso on Interstate 380, where the high-speed route passes through city limits.
Motorists argued that the civil administrative hearings Cedar Rapids uses to confirm violations are rigged in favor of the city, depriving drivers of their due process rights. The judges reasoned that there is nothing preventing aggrieved ticket recipients from challenging the citation in a real court. even though neither Sensys Gatso nor Cedar Rapids have been eager to advertise this.
"The administrative hearing is optional, not required," Judge Richard H. Doyle noted in his ruling. "It is somewhat troubling that the notice of violation issued to a vehicle owner is a bit misleading, as it does not, on its face, inform the owner of the two alternatives to contest the violation."
In 2015, the Iowa Department of Transportation (IDOT) found that the cameras on I-380 in Cedar Rapids were installed primarily to raise revenue, not promote traffic safety. The agency ordered the devices removed (view order). The judges here decided not to consider this point because the cities that use cameras have been battling IDOT in court, and the case is pending.
The second case was filed by motorist Marla Leaf, who had been driving her Ford Mustang on I-380 on February 5, 2015 when a Sensys Gatso camera took a photograph. The device claimed the Mustang was traveling 68 MPH in the 55 MPH zone. Leaf insisted that this was not true, but the Cedar Rapids administrative hearing officer upheld the $75 fine, so Leaf insisted that the city issue a municipal infraction so that she could contest it in court. A city magistrate also upheld the ticket because Sensys Gatso asserted that the information was accurate.
"The camera in question had been tested by Gatso (the company with whom the city contracted to install and maintain the automated traffic enforcement system) to confirm it was properly calibrated within the twelve months prior to this incident," the magistrate ruled. "The city met its burden of proving that the camera in question was functioning properly."
So Leaf filed an appeal in the Linn County District Court, where Judge Patrick R. Grady once again sided with the cameras. Leaf then filed the present appeal to the state's second highest court, which was not sympathetic.
"Although we do not doubt the sincerity of Leaf's belief she was not speeding, upon our review, we find no error on the part of the district court," Judge Doyle concluded.
The panel repeated its reasons for throwing out the due process claims, insisting Cedar Rapids has not had its own "due process" yet.
"It is not even clear that placement of the camera is necessarily in violation of the IDOT's regulations," Judge Doyle wrote. "The regulations provide municipalities a process to appeal a regulatory decision regarding camera placement... The city and the IDOT are currently in litigation/negotiation regarding whether the camera at issue can continue in its current location. Thus the legality of the placement is still an open question."
A copy of both cases can be found in a 500k PDF file at the source link below.