1/9/2020Iowa Supreme Court Rejects Speed Camera Transparency
Iowa Supreme Court declares speed camera tickets are not driving violations to avoid naming individuals immune from receiving photo citations.
Cities in Iowa that use speed cameras can continue to conceal the information they generate. The state Supreme Court on Friday ruled against a former Ottumwa police sergeant who had sought data from the city's for-profit, private vendor Redspeed. Mark Leonard Milligan used freedom of information laws to request the names of people who were sent tickets as well as the names of people who were photographed but had their photo ticket canceled by Redspeed. His goal was to determine whether enforcement was fair "across the board between all citizens."
Ottumwa refused to turn over the information, and a lower court judge ordered the city to comply, pointing to an exception in the federal privacy law allowing release of a driver's information related to "driving violations." A divided Iowa Supreme Court rejected that analysis.
"We disagree with the district court," Justice Edward M. Mansfield wrote for the majority. "Automated traffic enforcement camera citations do not involve 'driving violations.'"
Because photo tickets are set up to go to the vehicle owner, not the driver, the majority reasoned the "driving violation" exception did not apply. The majority said that if the records were deemed public, each ticket recipient's license plate number would become public as well.
"These things would surprise many Iowans, we think," Justice Mansfield wrote. "A mass production of license-plate-and-name combinations could be used to facilitate stalking -- exactly the situation the DPPA [Driver's Privacy Protection Act] was enacted to prevent."
Chief Justice Mark S. Cady and Justice Brent R. Appel suggested their colleagues were misreading the law.
"I also emphasize that Milligan is asking for only the names of persons, not extraneous information such as license numbers, plate numbers, or addresses," Justice Cady wrote. "The release of this limited information will not be contrary to the purpose of the DPPA, which is to address public safety concerns regarding stalkers' and other criminals' easy access to the personal information in Iowa Department of Transportation records and to restrain the sale of that information to businesses and individuals."
The court canceled an award of $57,315 in legal fees that the lower court gave to Milligan. A copy of the ruling is available in a 200k PDF file at the source link below.