In an interesting twist of civil procedure that is taking the country by storm, due process is being used to kick those nasty traffic cameras to the curb! Civil procedure professors are always so oddly excited about their specialty. Finally, a practical application of civil procedure for the Average Joe!
Traffic Cam Tickets Target Drivers, Not Cars
The Iowa Supreme Court has allowed a class action to proceed against traffic cam ticket recipients, overturning a lower court's ruling. They based this decision on due process. The ticket is not just a civil penalty for a municipal ordinance violation, like a parking ticket. Rather it is a municipal fine, like a moving violation, which requires court proceedings and carries a higher burden of proof.
The point is that the ticket is not just a ticket against your car in the traffic cam picture, it's a ticket against the driver, as a person. And people, unlike cars, are entitled to due process and a chance to be heard.
Don't Bully Me Out of My Due Process
The court did not make any rulings on whether traffic cams are legal or not. But rather, the court said the city's current traffic cam ticket process is unjust. The notices that car owners receive advise the drivers of their right to appeal the traffic cam ticket, but then use language describing the ticket as a "judgment" and a "final administrative decision" that can result in collection efforts and legal action, even though the case has not gone through the due process of the court system.
The court did not pierce a dagger through the black heart of those pesky cameras. In fact, after a legally-induced hiatus from a different lawsuit, traffic cams are back on throughout the state of Iowa. But this can be seen as a small step for the average driver. Perhaps cities might use less traffic cams if they realize that they also have to bear the administrative costs of due process associated with those citations, rather than just collecting the fines, like parking tickets. Meter maid unions might consider filing an amicus brief on this one!
If you believe you've received a traffic cam ticket unjustly, contact a traffic ticket lawyer near you. Perhaps you too can help fight traffic cams.