- Associated Press - Friday, February 20, 2015

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Iowa cities are not violating the state constitution when they use automated traffic cameras to give out speeding tickets to motorists, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled Friday, rejecting arguments from a Sioux Center attorney who got a ticket on Interstate 29.

Michael Jacobsma, 45, challenged a speeding ticket he received in August 2012 as the registered owner of a car caught on camera traveling 67 miles an hour on Interstate 29 where the speed limit is 55. He appealed to a magistrate then to district court, where a judge upheld the fine. He then appealed to the Iowa Supreme Court which rejected his arguments on Friday.

Jacobsma said red-light and speeding camera ordinances place the burden of proof on the owner of the car to disprove guilt, opposite of the basic tenant that authorities must prove someone is guilty.

“I think the broad implication is now the Supreme Court has essentially given the legal authority for municipalities across the entire state to basically take people’s money without having to prove they really did anything wrong,” he said. “I believe it’s an unwarranted intrusion on our freedom but the court issued its opinion and I respect it and have to abide by it.”

Jacobsma launched three constitutional challenges to the ordinance. He claimed it is an unreasonable exercise of police power, violates due process rights of car owners and violates the state’s limited home rule provision that says city ordinances cannot conflict with state laws.

The court ruled the city’s ordinance is not an overreach of power because it reasonably advances the public interest of safety. The justices said Jacobsma failed to show the ordinance was sufficiently arbitrary and unreasonable to give rise to a federal due process violation and they found no conflict with state laws that would render the ordinance unconstitutional.

“We’re pleased with the ruling and we will continue to use speed cameras and red light cameras the way that we always have in an effort to promote safety on the roadways within the city of Sioux City,” Assistant City Attorney Justin Vondrak said.

Jacobsma, who represented himself, said he’s given no meaningful consideration to seeking a U.S. Supreme Court review. He said he hopes the attention brought to the issue may prompt the Iowa Legislature to consider a law banning traffic cameras. Bills that would outlaw the cameras have been introduced in recent years but none advanced through the Legislature.

Sen. Brad Zaun, who has worked to make the cameras illegal, introduced a bill in January to prohibit the use of the cameras in Iowa.

“I am very disappointed in this ruling, as I agree these cameras are unconstitutional and without due process,” said Zaun, an Urbandale Republican, in an email. “I will continue my fight to have all the traffic enforcement cameras outlawed…”

He said people should follow all traffic laws “but the fleecing of Iowans has to be stopped.”

Sioux City has two speed cameras on Interstate 29 and 11 red-light cameras at city intersections. In recent years they’ve generated about $5 million in revenue for the city.

In a separate legal challenge Sioux City has sued the Iowa Department of Transportation in March challenging new regulations which require cities to submit traffic data to justify cameras along state roads. City officials say the rules, which went into effect in February 2014, are unconstitutional. A trial is set for May in Woodbury County District Court but that is likely to be delayed, Vondrak said.

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