Drivers challenge Iowa Department of Transportation’s authority

DES MOINES — A group of drivers facing tickets issued by Iowa Transportation Department officers want a judge to order the agency to stop issuing those citations.

The group filed a motion Tuesday asking for an injunction, according to the Des Moines Register.

The drivers are trying to capitalize on Polk County judge’s ruling last month that the agency didn’t have authority to enforce most moving violations. The judge cited a law limiting officers outside of the state’s public safety department from enforcement powers. A 1990 Iowa attorney general opinion said DOT officers’ authority is limited to drunken driving enforcement and commercial motor vehicle violations related to registration, size and weight.

That ruling came in the case of 16-year-old Peyton Atzen who was fighting a speeding ticket. Parrish Kruidenier, the same law firm that represented him, filed Tuesday’s motion.

State records show DOT officers issued over 25,000 speeding tickets between Jan. 1, 2011, and July 10, 2016, with around half of those tickets issued to noncommercial vehicles. Those noncommercial speeding tickets generated $3.7 million in state revenue. That money is deposited into the state’s general fund and eventually allocated by lawmakers to pay for running the state, according to the Legislative Services Agency.

Parrish Kruidenier attorney Brandon Brown said he also has records that show the DOT wrote thousands of tickets per year for violations involving seat belts, tinted windows, expired insurance cards and failure to obey traffic control devices. The law firm is reviewing options that could require the state to refund the illegally issued ticket fines.

Transportation Department spokeswoman Andrea Henry said the agency plans to fight the motion. Henry said other Iowa courts continue to uphold citations the agency’s officers issue. The agency said the citations are a matter of public safety, not revenue generation.