Opinion: State of Iowa ‘abusive’ over traffic camera fines

The attorney behind several mostly unsuccessful lawsuits challenging the legality of automated traffic cameras in Iowa has filed a petition with the state on behalf of eight motorists seeking to block the seizure of income tax refunds to cover debt from unpaid speed and red light traffic camera tickets.

Lawyer Jim Larew, of Iowa City, filed the petition April 4 questioning whether the Iowa Department of Administrative Services, which oversees the state’s income offset program, has the legal authority to collect the money; whether it wrongfully expanded its powers to include collection and forfeiture; and whether it wrongfully enriched itself.

The petition comes after the Iowa Supreme Court declared the city of Cedar Rapids was finding people who did not pay the automated camera tickets guilty by default — rather than taking them to court through a municipal infraction process, which state law requires.

Several cities including Cedar Rapids contract with Administrative Services to seize income tax refunds and other money from people with unpaid camera fines to settle the debt. In many cases, the refund being held is significantly greater than the fine.

The agency keeps a 6 percent fee for its role.