Iowa Supreme Court Hears First Speed Camera Case

DES MOINES, Iowa  --  The Iowa Supreme Court is often reserved for the most important cases. Rarely do justices hear cases about simple misdemeanors, let alone speeding tickets, but that is exactly what happened on Wednesday.  

After a two-year battle, Marla Leaf finally had her Automated Traffic Enforcement ticket case heard. 

On February 5th, 2015,  Leaf was going home on Highway 380 in Cedar Rapids, when she got clocked by an automatic speed camera driving 68 miles per hour in a 55 mph zone. There was no stop, no warning, just a $75 ticket in her mailbox a few weeks later. 

“It wasn’t a fair ticket to give,” said Marla Leaf, 67, standing outside of the Iowa Supreme Court building.

Unlike the rest of us who would have just paid the ticket and moved on, Marla decided to fight, saying it’s about principle. 

“I don’t feel that people should have to pay for tickets they don’t get legitimately,” said Leaf.

Leaf believes she doesn’t deserve the ticket because she wasn’t speeding. She and her husband claim it was icy and the roads were bad, even for February. If she had been driving that speed in her Mustang, she likely would have been found in the ditch. 

“You’re on ice? Oh. You’d be sideways," said Leaf. Her Ford Mustang has rear-wheel drive and she says it’s difficult to drive in any inclement weather.

Leaf is like a growing number of Iowans who believe the automatic traffic enforcement system is unfair and, in some cases, unconstitutional. This is what her lawyer, James Larew, presented to the Iowa Supreme Court on Wednesday

He asked them to consider three points: 

Does this ordinance infringe on a fundamental right to travel?

Does the manner in which these traffic violations are processed violate due process rights?

Does the private company that operates these cameras police power unlawfully?

“Though one particular ticket doesn't amount to much, it's an important universe. Because there is a lot of people out there, for better or for worse, who are having an experience that's similar,” said Larew.

Many cities in Iowa agree with Larew's point of view. Across the state, many of these cameras have been taken down. As for Leaf, she’ll continue to stand firm in what she believe in.

“But now I will not drive on 380 anymore. I take the long way around and that’s it,” said Leaf.

There won't be any closure on this issue for a while. It’s common for justices to take weeks, if not months, to rule on a case.