The American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa promises further legal action against traffic cameras in the wake of today’s Iowa Supreme Court ruling. The high court rejected a Davenport man’s argument that traffic cameras conflicted with state law. The executive director of the A-C-L-U of Iowa, Ben Stone, says the ruling does not put and end to the issue.
"Any municipality that thinks that this ruling gives comfort to their accountants that they should invest in these mechanized operations should really think twice because this legal battle is far from over," Stone says. Stone says the Supreme Court’s ruling only addressed whether the state law precluded the cameras — not whether the cameras are an invasion of privacy or shift the burden of proof to the defendant.
Stone says, "There’s a fundamental unfairness to ticketing the owners of an automobile regardless of whether the government can prove that they’re driving. There’s a shifting of the burden of proof. There’s a shifting of the presumption of innocence. And we think both those issues are very important to stand up for in the court."
During the court battle, at least two of the four Iowa communities suspended the use of their traffic cameras. But Clive, Council Bluffs, Davenport and Sioux City may resume using the cameras after today’s ruling. Stone says the Iowa A-C-L-U will look to take more legal action.
Stone says most civil libertarians agree that it’s "kind of creepy" having machines enforce the law. He says you can argue that people look at the pictures, but he says machines trigger the action. While the use of the cameras has been limited, Stone is worried about the cameras becoming more prevalent.
He says the future with cameras potentially all over the place "is the kind of vision civil libertarians are worried about." The Supreme Court acknowledged it did not address the issues of privacy or burden of proof in its ruling, the court simply looked at whether traffic cameras were precluded by state law.