The Iowa Supreme Court has reversed a district court ruling that required the city of Ottumwa to turn over information on drivers who were caught speeding by the city’s automated traffic camera system — but didn’t get a ticket.
Former Ottumwa police sergeant Mark Milligan sought the information after getting a ticket while driving a patrol car when he was off duty. Milligan argued the information is exempt from a federal law created to prevent stalkers from obtaining DOT records because the information was used by police.
The Iowa Supreme Court ruled the information is not exempt and should be kept confidential. An attorney for the city of Ottumwa, Skylar Limkemen, made that argument during oral arguments in September . “There’s a line of cases out there that essentially addresses this is issued of when law enforcement uses a record — does that become a public record? And the answer to the question is no. Particularly back to the text of the stature that provides that the person requesting the record has to have an authorized use as well,” Limkemen said.
Milligan’s attorney, Steven Gardner, told the justices during oral arguments that the information isn’t any different than when an actual officer stops a speeder. “If a police officer pulls over an individual and clocks them for speeding and choosing to give them a warning — which they write on a piece of paper…with the information on it and issue it to the driver — now it has become a public record,” Gardner said.
The Supreme Court ruling says Milligan testified he wanted the information for a federal lawsuit, but no information about the lawsuit was entered as evidence. The ruling also says they disagree with the district court that traffic camera citations involve “driving violations,” as they are not sent to the DOT and do not go on a driver’s record.
Justice David Wiggins wrote a dissent to the opinion that says the information should be released under the exemptions because the city is “exercising a lawful function under its ordinances when it issues a notice of violation to a person accused of or under investigation for failing to obey a speed limit.”
Wiggins’ dissent also says Milligan is asking for only the names of persons, not extraneous information such as license numbers, plate numbers, or addresses. It says the release of that limited information would not be contrary to the purpose of the federal law.
Justic Brent Appel joined Wiggins’ dissent.
Here’s the ruling: Ottumwa Traffic Camera ruling PDF