Last week the Iowa Supreme Court found that the Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT) did not have the authority to issue approximately 13,000 citations over the course of two years.
On Friday, October 19, the Iowa Supreme Court unanimously ruled that Iowa DOT motor vehicle enforcement officers had illegally issued more than 12,840 citations between 2014 and 2016, according to WHO TV.
As a result of the court’s ruling, the Iowa DOT may be forced to refund the nearly 13,000 citations. Most of the tickets were issued for $150.
The Iowa Supreme Court found that prior to 2017 when new legislation was passed, Iowa DOT motor vehicle enforcement officers did not have the proper authority to issue citations for traffic violations like speeding. The court found that Iowa DOT officers only had the proper authority to issue citations for commercial vehicle offenses like overweight violations, operating authority violations, and registration violations.
The Iowa DOT released a statement following the Supreme Court ruling: “We are disappointed in the result of this decision. Public safety is best served when trained peace officers are able to respond to dangerous traffic events that occur in their presence, like speeding through a work zone with a revoked license.”
The lawsuit against the Iowa DOT began when two motorists, Rickie Rilea and Timothy Riley, were cited by Iowa DOT officers for speeding during separate incidents in a construction zone in 2016. Rilea and Riley sued the Iowa DOT. After this lawsuit was filed, Iowa lawmakers amended the law to give DOT officers similar authority to peace officers — and therefore authority to enforce traffic laws along with all other state laws. A lawyer representing Rilea and Riley says that the Iowa Supreme Court’s ruling has cleared a path for a previously filed class action suit to move forward.