IA High Court Holds Speed Camera Constitutional

Iowa case law summary by Attorney Richard Clem: Speed Camera.

City of Sioux City v. Michael Jon Jacobsma. IA speed camera

On August 6, 2012, a vehicle registered to Sioux Center attorney Michael Jocobsma was detected by Sioux City Automated Traffic Enforcement ("speed camera") equipment as travelling on I-29 at 77 MPH in a 55 MPH zone. The city issued a citation, which included images of the vehicle involved in the alleged infraction. A video of the alleged incident was also made available for viewing on a webpage.

The citation included instructions, which offered three options. The first option (undoubtedly the method grudgingly used by most) was to simply pay the fine. The second option was to present an affidavit identifying another driver or reporting that the vehicle had been sold or stolen. That option required providing a copy of the transfer or police report. The notice stated that if another person were driving, then "liability can only be transferred if the nominated driver accepts the responsibility." The final option, which Mr. Jacobsma chose, was to request a hearing, which could be appealed to district court.

Mr. Jacobsma never denied the allegations, but moved to dismiss on various constitutional grounds. When those arguments were rejected by Woodbury County district judge Jeffrey A. Neary, he appealed, and the case was heard by the Iowa Supreme Court.

The state high court affirmed, and rejected the constitutional challenges. Jacobsma first argued that the automated traffic enforcement ordinance violated substantive due process under the federal and Iowa constitutions. But since only a fine was involved, the court resolved the case on "rational basis" grounds and held that there was indeed a rational basis for the ordinance.

He next argued that the ordinance violated the "inalienable rights clause" of the Iowa constitution. However, the court ultimately rejected this argument, holding that the speed camera law was a reasonable exercise of the state's police power.

Finally, he argued that the ordinance was preempted by the state motor vehicle laws. But this claim was also rejected. For these reasons, the Supreme Court affirmed the lower court's ruling and upheld the fine.

No. 13-1502 (Iowa Feb. 20, 2015).

Please see the original opinion for the court's exact language.


Richard P. Clem is an attorney and continuing legal education (CLE) provider in Minnesota. He has been in private practice in the Twin Cities for 25 years. He has a J.D., cum laude, from Hamline University School of Law in St. Paul and a B.A. in History from the University of Minnesota. His reported cases include: Asociacion Nacional de Pescadores a Pequena Escala o Artesanales de Colombia v. Dow Quimica de Colombia, 988 F.2d 559, rehearing denied, 5 F.3d 530 (5th Cir. 1993), cert. denied, 510 U.S. 1041 (1994); LaMott v. Apple Valley Health Care Center, 465 N.W.2d 585 (Minn. Ct. App. 1991); Abo el Ela v. State, 468 N.W.2d 580 (Minn. Ct. App. 1991).

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