SIOUX CITY | The Iowa Supreme Court is set to hear arguments that Sioux City's speed-camera ordinance is unconstitutional.
Sioux Center lawyer Michael Jacobsma claims the city exceeded its authority in enacting the ordinance, which, he says, violates due process by shifting the burden of proof to a vehicle owner to disprove a citation, thus depriving the owner of the presumption of innocence.
Jacobsma is challenging a judge's ruling that upheld a $168 fine he was issued after a vehicle registered to him was photographed speeding on Interstate 29 in Sioux City.
The Supreme Court will hear the case at 7 p.m. Wednesday in a special session in the Anderson Auditorium in the Walter Siebens Forum on the Buena Vista University campus in Storm Lake. The court conducts evening sessions in cities across the state each year so more people have the chance to see the court in session.
On Aug. 6, 2012, an automated traffic camera recorded a vehicle registered to Jacobsma traveling at 67 mph in a 55 mph zone. In court proceedings, Jacobsma stipulated that he was the vehicle's registered owner, but did not stipulate he was driving at the time of the alleged violation. Magistrate Patrick Tott found him in violation and issued the civil fine.
Jacobsma appealed the fine in Woodbury County District Court, questioning the constitutionality of the ordinance. District Judge Jeffrey Neary upheld Tott's ruling.
Jacobsma, who is representing himself, appealed Neary's ruling to the Supreme Court. He said in his appeal brief that Sioux City exceeded its authority in enacting the traffic camera ordinance. The ordinance, he said, gives owners little room to defend themselves if they were not the driver and makes the presumption that the owner is at fault.
"... the Sioux City ordinance imposes liability on a vehicle owner arbitrarily without any rational relationship required to be found between the owner and the driver who exceeds the speed limit," Jacobsma said in his brief to the court.
The city defended the ordinance in its brief, saying it gives vehicle owners ticketed by a traffic camera the chance to prove they were not the driver by providing a stolen vehicle report or the name of the driver.
"If a violation of the Sioux City Municipal Code is proved by clear, satisfactory and convincing evidence, liability should be imposed upon the rational connection shown in the evidence," assistant city attorneys Amber Hegarty and Justin Vondrak wrote in the city's brief.
The city has operated two speed cameras along I-29 since 2011. The city also operates 11 red-light cameras at nine intersections in the city. The first red-light camera became operational in June 2009.
In an unrelated case, the city has challenged the Iowa Department of Transportation's automated traffic camera guidelines, seeking to have them thrown out because, the city claims, the IDOT violated its own procedures when passing them. That case is scheduled to go to trial in Woodbury County District Court in May.