DES MOINES, Iowa– Instead of enforcing the law, the Iowa Supreme Court says the Department of Transportation spent two years breaking the law.
The Iowa DOT could be forced to refund nearly 13,000 fines that were issued between 2014 and 2016.
In 2016, two separate drivers were ticketed by DOT officers for speeding in work zones in Warren County.
The drivers sued, claiming it was not within the power of the DOT to issue speeding tickets.
Friday, the Iowa Supreme Court agreed. Justices unanimously ruled that the DOT had the power to issue citations only for registration, size, weight load and operating authority violations.
The DOT released this statement saying:
“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 ”.
– Andrea Henry Director, Strategic Communications & Policy
Brandon Brown, the attorney representing the plaintiffs, said this ruling could pave the way for a class-action lawsuit he is working on that would require the DOT to reimburse drivers who paid those tickets.
“It’s important because every state agency has their own function and we have maintained that The Department of Public Safety because of a ruling made decades ago that public safety has the power to regulate traffic enforcements, it’s important so that every agency stays within their own boundaries,” attorney Brandon Brown said.
Brown says on average the tickets issued were about $150.00, some upwards of $1,000 because they were in construction zones.
Since this lawsuit, Iowa legislators passed a law in 2017 that gives DOT officers similar authority as peace officers.