Davenport wins round one in traffic cam challenge
I'm very sorrry to hear this came out this way.
Any legal authorities or others care to predict the future of this case?
Does Seymour's argument have merit?
Iowa's constitution doesn't bar cities from enforcing municipal laws against things like speeding, a Scott County magistrate judge ruled Monday in a Bettendorf man's challenge of the constitutionality of Davenport's automated traffic cameras.
Thomas Seymour was joined by the American Civil Liberties Union in his challenge of Davenport's authority to create municipal traffic ordinances against speeding, and whether the traffic cameras meet due process requirements or abdicate police power.
In August 2005, Davenport aldermen approved an ordinance authorizing the use of the speed cameras. Tickets issued from speed cameras are civil fines and are sent to the vehicle's owner, not necessarily the person driving.
Randall Wilson of the ACLU of Iowa Foundation argued the main issue was whether Davenport could create the ordinance in the first place. "We say the uniform speeding ticket is the means to enforce speeding. The judge disagreed and we'll study his ruling," he said. "We're inclined to appeal."
In court filings, Mr. Seymour's attorney, Michael McCarthy, argued because the tickets are civil violations and not a simple misdemeanor like a traditional traffic tickets, the ordinance establishing use of the cameras deprives a vehicle owner of federal and state constitutional rights of due process.
"The City of Davenport does not possess the authority to diminish the protections that would be available to the defendant had he been prosecuted under a state statute covering the same subject," Mr. McCarthy's court brief states.
Judge Williamson wrote there is case law that shows cities enforcing municipal infractions, such as speeding, is not prohibited by the Iowa constitution. He denied Mr. Seymour's motion to dismiss the charges and ordered him to pay his $125 ticket.
Mr. Seymour argued his due process was diminished because it is up to the defendant to prove he or she was not the driver of a ticketed vehicle. The judge ruled Mr. Seymour "misses the point" and that the city still must prove a violation occurred and the vehicle was registered to the person who got the ticket.
Judge Williamson's ruling continued on to address Mr. Seymour's argument that the traffic enforcement cameras relinquish authority from the police regarding the fines. The traffic cameras aren't city property, but leased from Redflex Traffic Systems Inc., of Scottsdale, Ariz., and are paid for using proceeds from fines.
The judge ruled that because an officer reviews, signs and files each ticket, the ordinance doesn't conflict with case law preventing police authority from being delegated to private companies.
Chris Jackson, a city attorney handling the case, said when creating the ordinance Davenport's legal department anticipated challenges like this. The ruling "really only applies to Mr. Seymour," Mr. Jackson said. "If this thing goes to the U.S. Supreme Court, this becomes precedent."