The county attorney at the center of a controversy over a policy that allows the trading of speeding tickets for equipment violations in exchange for hefty fines is defending his actions. Cass County Attorney Jim Barry was featured in a Des Moines Register report on the practice that led to questions from the governor, lawmakers and the County Attorneys Association. Barry says the policy is legal and, he believes, ethical. He says the written policy was started in the early 1990’s, and is an attempt to treat all drivers equally. He says it’s a system that tries to operate within the confines of our legal system. He says people who have license problems or insurance problems shouldn’t simply have tickets reduced without paying a penalty. He says it’s his opinion the penalty that’s paid, which is often very high, is an appropriate penalty and also as a deterrent for the future. The policy allows a person caught speeding to reduce a ticket in five-mile-an-hour increments for non-moving violations. Each violation then costs 147-dollars. The driver’s attorney contacts Barry’s office, and he’ll then send a letter detailing steps the person has to take to have the charges reduced, along with a list of possible non-moving violations, which the driver chooses. The driver also signs an affidavit stating that they were guilty of the non-moving violations. Barry says he doesn’t tell people to lie, and advises them to tell the truth on the affidavit. He says he’s been criticized for encouraging people to do this. He says, “I guess I am unsure of what person or persons have come forward to indicate that in any way, shape or form I have encouraged anybody to file a false affidavit.” Barry says the system is a way to plea bargain a certain number of speeding tickets. He cites numbers in the Des Moines Register article that only 54 people took advantage of the system last year. He says “what I think the public needs to understand is that this is not the norm. It was not intended to be the norm. It was intended to heavily penalize people that had driver’s license and insurance problems with the intent that that would benefit the citizens of the State of Iowa by an increase in revenue.” Barry also says neither his office, nor any county offices, collect any money from the speeding ticket deals. All the money goes to the state. He also says he’s not aware of any other county in the state that has a written policy as Cass County has. He says that way it’s out there for the pubic and subject to scrutiny. He says everything that he has done had been documented in the court files and the proceeds have gone to the appropriate authorities. Cass County’s speeding ticket policy is being reviewed by the Attorney General’s Office and the Iowa County Attorneys Association. Barry says the policy has been suspended until the review is completed.
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