A new law that protects South Dakota residents from having to pay tickets from Iowa traffic cameras is causing some animosity between officials in the two states. The law passed by the South Dakota legislature prohibits the sharing of law enforcement information for civil penalties.
South Dakota state Senator Dan Lederman of Dakota Dunes sponsored the bill. “Everybody sees these traffic cameras for what they are, they’re really revenue cameras,” Lederman says. “That’s what I’ve started calling them. From now on, I won’t call them traffic cameras, they’re revenue cameras.”
While many Iowa cities have the cameras, the ones under most scrutiny by the bill are located along Interstate 29 in Sioux City. The cameras take a picture of the car and driver, then the company mails a civil ticket to the owner of the car.
Lederman says the fines from the cameras are outside law enforcement, which violates previous agreements between the states. “They specifically say in their traffic notices that it’s a civil infraction and it won’t be reported to the law enforcement community and that it’s strictly to collect on a fine,” he says. The distinction may seem small, but Lederman says it’s the key to the whole argument. “Currently, the way it’s set up, they’re violating the contract of the interstate compact for the law enforcement information sharing,” Lederman says. “I don’t see it opening up any doors for a reciprocity argument with Iowa or any other state.”
He says there are other states that use the cameras within the criminal legal system and South Dakota will cooperate with those. “There’s several states out there that have these cameras where they’re running them as criminal charges and giving the drivers a fair day in court to argue why they shouldn’t have to pay the fine,” Lederman says. “Those states that are operating in that manner still have full access to the information through the law enforcement database.”
Lederman says Sioux City authorities can fill out a form and pay a fee to South Dakota to obtain vehicle licensing information. Sioux City Police Chief Doug Young says of 13-million vehicles checked by the cameras, fewer than one-percent got tickets. He didn’t know how many were from South Dakota.
(Reporting by Jerry Oster, WNAX, Yankton)