A woman in Iowa has managed to push her case against a $75 speeding ticket all the way to the state Supreme Court.
Covered by The Washington Post, the feat accomplished by 67-year old Marla Leaf is exceptional – only in the rarest of instances are minor infractions escalated to the top of the judiciary.
But Leaf says her outrage isn’t about money, but rather about her constitutional rights.
Leaf’s attorney, James Larew, took a novel approach to arguing against a red-light camera-issued ticket. According to the plaintiffs, the city of Cedar Rapids – where Leaf was cited – may be violating equal protection and due process clauses due to its outsourcing of police power to Gatso USA.
Gatso is one of the many private companies contracted by cities across the country to maintain and run traffic cameras.
For Marla Leaf and James Larew, the Supreme Court has but one sensible conclusion: declaring her innocent.
“Why should I pay for a ticket I didn’t do?” asked Leaf at the hearing. “Why should others have to pay for tickets they didn’t do?”
Leaf’s complaint is combined with six other similar cases, all involving motorists who say they were wrongfully cited by Gasto USA’s equipment.
The facts, they say, are more than evident.
On the day Leaf was ticketed, a traffic camera recorded her as traveling 68 miles per hour in a 55-mile per hour zone.
Leaf, who has never received a speeding ticket in her life, said she recalls driving between 50 and 55 miles per hour. Moreover, she claims that weather conditions on the day of her citation were inclement – the road was iced over, with other, less cautious drivers passing her on the left and right.
In a somewhat unusual move, the Iowa Supreme Court agreed to review the case, which had already been closed by a lower court as well as the Iowa Court of Appeals last February.
The appellate court sided with the city, but the higher judiciary felt there might be more to the story.
One of the arguments being aired by Leaf and Larew, as reported by The Washington Post, is on the seemingly arbitrariness of ticketing. For instance, neither semitrailers nor government vehicles can be cited by the traffic camera system – something Larew claims in court documents is “clearly arbitrary and unreasonable.”
However, attorneys for the city disagree.
“Incremental problem-solving or under-inclusiveness does not make an ordinance unconstitutional,” said city attorney Patricia Kropf.
Another note by the Post, as well as NPR, suggested another contentious issue – that Leaf may have been ticketed on an interstate highway, which Cedar Rapids may not have jurisdiction over.
The Post presumes it will likely take several months before the Iowa Supreme Court will render a decision.