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I-29 speed camera demonstration

Sioux City police Capt. Mel Williams is shown with a speed camera in May 2011.  Hundreds of bikers are using Interstate 29 to go to the Sturgis rally in the Black Hills. 

Tim Hynds, Sioux City Journal file

SIOUX CITY | A judge has raised questions about how citations are issued to some drivers caught by Sioux City's traffic cameras.

District Associate Judge John Nelson on June 27 dismissed a citation sent to Craig Krueger, who was driving a rental car on Jan. 3, when a traffic camera recorded him driving 66 mph in a 55 mph zone on Interstate 29 near Hamilton Boulevard.

Krueger had rented the car from Enterprise Rent-A-Car in Sioux Falls after flying from Fort Lee, N.J., to attend his father's funeral in Sioux City.

In his ruling, Nelson said the city ordinance's allowance for registered owners of vehicles to transfer responsibility for the ticket to a "nominated party" is unclear. The ordinance, Nelson said, contains no explanation of the nominating process and does not mention the rights and responsibilities of the nominated party, a term used only once in the ordinance.

"This court is troubled by the inclusion in this statute of a 'nominated party' without any other statutory guidance as to the same," Nelson wrote in his ruling. "What is the authority for the city to allow the transference of an 'in rem' liability by a second party (the registered owner) to a third party (not the registered owner)?"

Under the nominated party provision, if the registered owner of a vehicle photographed speeding or running a red light was not the driver, he or she can return the citation with the name and address of the person who was driving. That person could then be cited.

The city has two speed cameras along I-29 and cameras at 11 intersections to catch drivers running red lights. The cameras are operated by RedFlex Traffic Systems, a Scottsdale, Ariz.-based company that also handles billing and receives a share of the city's revenue from the citations.

Sioux City police Capt. Mel Williams said it's common for vehicle rental agencies to return citations and provide the name of the person who rented the vehicle seen committing the infraction.

Krueger said in his case, the citation initially was sent to Enterprise, the registered owner, which returned it to the city with Krueger nominated as the driver.

"I don't see how they can issue a ticket to some third party without the third party agreeing to it," said Krueger, who represented himself in the case.

Krueger insisted he wasn't speeding. A Sioux City native, he said he was driving carefully because there was snow along the road and he was wary of potential icy conditions. He was also on his way to his father's funeral.

"Why would I want to speed to that?" Krueger said. "I fought (the citation) because I wasn't speeding, and I wasn't going to just throw money away."

Nelson said in his ruling that the city presented no evidence that a nomination occurred or that the citation was originally sent to Enterprise. Police may have investigated the matter and received information that Krueger was driving, "but the court is not convinced that he is a 'nominated party' as contemplated by the city ordinance," Nelson wrote.

Nelson dismissed the citation and ordered the city to pay court costs.

In an email to the Journal, assistant city attorney Ryan Wiesen, who handled the case, declined to answer questions because of ongoing litigation.

"The city is confident in its ordinances as they currently exist, is reviewing the ruling from Judge Nelson and is evaluating its options for further judicial review of the matter," Wiesen said in the email.

Krueger said he hoped the ruling leads to the end of traffic cameras in Sioux City.

"I hope it goes to invalidate this law," he said. "In my opinion, it's just a smokescreen to steal money from people."

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