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Iowa: Court Declares Photo Enforcement Illegal
A Scott County, Iowa District Court judge declared the photo enforcement system in Davenport illegal under state law.

Scott County courthouseA Scott County, Iowa District Court judge today struck down the city of Davenport's red light camera and speed camera system as illegal under state law. Judge Gary D. McKenrick's ruling follows a December finding that the city has no means of establishing whether its speed cameras are accurate or not. The ruling is consistent with the argument made by the Minnesota Court of Appeals in striking down a similar photo enforcement system in Minneapolis.

The Davenport case began when Illinois resident Monique D. Rhoden received a notice in the mail claiming that on June 22, 2006 her 2000 Cadillac was traveling on Kimberly Road at 46 MPH in a 35 zone. Rhoden paid the $45 fine after reading on the notice that failure to do so would bring a penalty of $130 and a mandatory court appearance.

Davenport argued that because Rhoden paid the fine voluntarily, she admitted guilt. Judge McKenrick strongly disagreed, citing the dictionary definition of voluntary that says a voluntary action must be made without "legal obligation."

"Clearly, the plaintiff's payment of the fine was not voluntary," Judge McKenrick wrote.

The Iowa Code lays defines specific penalties for speeding, including the fines and the assessment of points. It also forbids municipalities from issuing ordinances that conflict with those established under state law: "Local authorities shall have no power to enact, enforce, or maintain any ordinance, rule or regulation in any way in conflict with, contrary to or inconsistent with the provisions of this chapter." (321.236)

State law defines speeding and red light violations as criminal offenses, but Davenport's ordinance turns them into mere civil violations. Davenport also does away with license demerit points and has set penalties that are substantially different than those outlined in the Iowa Code for the same violation. The city is likely to appeal in order to save the system which has generated more than $700,000 in revenue.

A full copy of the ruling is available in a 33k PDF file at the source link below.

Source: Rhoden v. Davenport (Iowa District Court for Scott County, 1/2/2007)

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