Millions of dollars worth of citations are being questioned after an Iowa judge ruled that the Department of Transportation does not have the authority to issue speeding tickets.
Teen Hires Lawyer After Motor Vehicle Enforcement Officer Issues Ticket
The case was brought before the court after 16-year-old Peyton Atzen was issued a speeding ticket by a Motor Vehicle Enforcement Officer with the Iowa Department of Transportation. He was doing 84 m.p.h. in a 55 m.p.h. zone.
Atzen’s lawyer argued that DOT officers have the authority to stop vehicles for weight or registration issues but not for a moving violation like speeding.
Judge Says DOT Was Outside Of Their Authority In Issuing Speeding Ticket
Polk County District Court Associate Judge Heather Lauber sided with Atzen, issuing a twelve page ruling that states that the DOT had no right to issue a moving violations ticket.
Judge Lauber’s ruling calls into question 25,000 speeding tickets issued by DOT officers between 2011 and 2016 — tickets that generated $3.7 million worth of revenue for the state. Approximately half of the speeding tickets written by DOT officers went to motorists, not commercial vehicle drivers.
DOT spokesperson Andrea Henry says that the court’s ruling is a threat to highway safety: “Of course it is disappointing, because this case does involve a speeding conviction, and excessive speed is one of the top three contributors to highway fatalities. So, of course in the name of safety, we are extremely disappointed.”
DOT Says They Won’t Stop Writing Speeding Tickets
In spite of the judge’s ruling, the Iowa DOT says they that disagree with the court’s decision and that they plan to continue issuing citations as they see fit: “We have no immediate plans to discontinue non-commercial enforcement. I do know any pending tickets — we believe we have the authority to issue those tickets, and those tickets are valid.”
It is unclear if the Iowa DOT will appeal the ruling or if they will simply continue to issue tickets in spite of it.
Atzen’s lawyer says that he will seek injunctive relief to order DOT officers to stop issuing tickets outside of their authority.