The Iowa Supreme Court says the state’s Department of Transportation spent two years breaking the law.
The Iowa DOT could be forced to refund nearly 13,000 fines paid for speeding tickets that were issued between 2014 and 2016.
In 2016, two separate drivers were ticketed by DOT officers for speeding in work zones in Warren County.
The drivers sued, claiming it was not within the power of the DOT to issue speeding tickets.
Justices agreed, unanimously ruling that the DOT had the power to issue citations only for registration, size, weight load and operating authority violations.
The Iowa DOT said the agency was disappointed in the decision.
“Public safety is best served when trained peace officers are able to respond to dangerous traffic events that occur in their presence, like speeding through a work zone with a revoked license,” said Andrea Henry, Director of Strategic Communications & Policy.
Brandon Brown, the attorney representing the plaintiffs, said this ruling could pave the way for a class-action lawsuit that would require the DOT to reimburse drivers who paid those tickets. Brown said on average the tickets issued were about $150.00, with some upwards of $1,000 because they were in construction zones.
Since this lawsuit, Iowa legislators passed a law in 2017 that gives DOT officers similar authority as peace officers.