The Iowa Supreme Court has ruled those involved in police chases can be required to pay for damage to patrol cars.
The City of Davenport sought $7,093 for damage to patrol cars that resulted from a high-speed chase of Daryl Shears in 2016. Shears had pleaded guilty to criminal mischief and eluding officers.
On appeal, Shears concedes that the Davenport police vehicles incurred damage when the officers attempted to stop him. He did not challenge the amount of damage to the vehicles, but Shears said that the damage was not caused by him, but instead was caused by the actions of the officers trying to stop him and he should not have to pay restitution.
The prosecution argued that it was foreseeable that police officers would hit Shears’s car to try to stop him because Shears’s high speed and disregard of stop signals posed a hazard to pedestrians and other drivers. In addition, police had tried using their lights, sirens, and spike strips to stop Shears without success.
The Iowa Supreme Court acknowledge that providing damages to victims has until fairly recently been a civil — not criminal action. And says there are questions as to whether a government entity can be considered a victim. The ruling says, “We believe that a government entity may, under the right circumstances, be a victim under the Iowa criminal restitution statute under our precedents.”
It goes on to say a reasonable fact finder could conclude that police would make an effort to apprehend the speeding Shears and that police vehicles could be damaged. It says most of the state and federal case law dealing with police vehicle crashes supports their conclusion.
Here’s the full ruling: Patrol-car-ruling-PDF