DES MOINES, Iowa -- Without the Iowa Department of Transportation's Motor Vehicle Enforcement team, MVE Director Marke Lowe said, "There will be a hole in the safety fabric if we become irrelevant."
Now, a class action lawsuit filed Tuesday with Polk County representing well over 20,000 drivers ticketed by MVE officers aims to do just that.
Saying the Iowa Department of Transportation MVE vehicles do not have such authority. It's a claim the DOT will vigorously fight.
"We are trained just as every other peace officer in the state. We go through the Iowa law enforcement academy for our training so we are properly trained and equipped," said Lowe, who is named in the filed petition.
Des Moines attorney Brandon Brown points to Iowa law that says their authority is regulated only to weight, size, and load on Iowa roadways not violations like speeding.
Lowe disagreed and said, "To say we should cast a blind eye to sort of blatant safety issues, I think is contrary to the concept of what it means to engage in law enforcement."
In May, 16-year-old Peyton Atzen was pulled over for speeding near Southeast Polk high school.
Lowe said, "At a very high rate of speed, almost 30 miles over the posted speed limit."
Atzen fought the ticket and a District Court Associate Judge ruled the DOT had no authority to issue that citation.
"We respectfully contest the analysis that was arrived at," said Lowe.
Brown specifically names four Iowans this year ticketed by MVE vehicles but says between August 19, 2014, through August 19, 2016, nearly 13,000 citations were issued to non-commercial drivers and another 9,000 to commercial drivers.
Lowe refutes the claim that they've outstepped their boundaries and said, "Officers outside of their jurisdiction still have authority to act when necessary. Even private citizens have the right to arrest when there is something imminent."
While the lawsuit hopes to fully compensate and expunge related records of all of those cited in the last two years, the DOT believes they have a sworn duty to public safety.
"If we had not interacted with that young man and he had continued at that speed and hit and killed a family or killed himself and it was known we could have intervened and didn`t, what questions would you be asking of us now?" said Lowe.
The lawsuit also requests injunctive relief that would require the DOT to immediately stop pulling over vehicles for violations other than size, weight, and load. The Iowa DOT is expected to file a motion to dismiss the lawsuit and has twenty days to do so.