July 18, 2006

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."


At 7/18/2006 9:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think Mr. Seymour argued the wrong point. I believe the law is written as a public nuisance law against a registered vehicle and not a moving traffic violation against an individual.

The key to arguing these cases is to attack the method that the municipality uses to prove that a violation occurred.

At 7/18/2006 11:30 PM, Blogger Craig said...

I think it is a valid point to bring up that our cops should be able to do their jobs. I don't understand why they need cameras to do it for them.

At 7/19/2006 6:23 AM, Blogger QuadCityImages said...

I don't see how this can argument can win, unless parking tickets are also made illegal.

What's the due process when you get a parking ticket? Its the same situation, where the burden of proof is on the person who got the ticket, yet we've had parking tickets practically since we've had cars.

At 7/19/2006 7:24 AM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

I think you're missing an important part of the argument.

Yes, we've had parking tickets forever. We've also had "meter maids" forever as well.

That's the point. A defendant should have a right to face his accuser and question them on the facts if they choose.

You can't call a camera to the stand.

If there are charges brought against anyone, it should be brought by a human witness who can be questioned in court.

At 3/17/2008 1:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

His son must be a deep sea navy diver


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