Is it Legal for Iowa's DOT to Write Tickets?

October 21, 2016

Peyton Atzen, a 16-year old student at Southeast Polk High School in Pleasant Hill, Iowa, decided to fight a speeding ticket he received from an Iowa DOT officer, citing a 70-year old Iowa Supreme Court case that said DOT officers have limited ticketing authority that does not include speeding or arrests. Similarly, 1990 Iowa attorney general opinion agreed, saying DOT officers' authority is limited to drunken driving enforcement and commercial motor vehicle violations.

According to the Des Moines Register, Iowa DOT officers issued over 25,000 speeding tickets between January 1, 2011 and July 10, 2016, generating an estimated $3.7 million in revenue. The DOT officers have also been ticketing noncommercial vehicles for  violation such as tinted windows, expired insurance cards, and seat belts.

Polk County District Court Associate Judge Heather Lauber ruled Thursday that the Iowa DOT does not have legal authority to issue speeding tickets and dismissed Atzen's case. However, Atzen's attorney, Brandon Brown, said he will seek an injunction forbidding DOT officers from making speeding stops in the future.

Millions of dollars are at stake as well as the perceived and actual authority of the DOT's officers. Young Atzen may have uncovered the tip of an interesting iceberg.

For more, read Judge: Iowa DOT illegally issuing speeding tickets in the Des Moines Register.