What Can I Do About a Speeding Ticket in Iowa?

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The most serious encounter most of us ever have with the law is a traffic ticket. These "citations" are issued by law enforcement officers to drivers who violate laws about vehicles on public roads. These laws are found in the Iowa Statutes in the Transportation chapter, 321 and in the Iowa Driver's Manual, a publication available at licensing facilities. These resources explain all the "rules of the road" in Iowa. If you've gotten a ticket, though, you're interested in your current options.

  • Read your citation. It will tell you what law you have been accused of breaking. It will also tell you when and where your "court date" will be. The officer must also record information about you, driving conditions, location of the "stop" and his name and office. Additional information may be offered to you on a separate sheet or brochure explaining your options for entering a plea, payment of your ticket, or appearance in court. If you have any questions about any of the information, call the phone number listed for the court which is usually listed in the materials given to you. The officer only enforces the law and writes tickets---court personnel can answer questions about procedures but cannot give legal advice on what you should do.

  • Read the law. Chapter 321.285 gives a definition for speeding. The important ideas, or elements, in this section all center on "careful and prudent speed" no more than "reasonable and proper" with "due regard " for type of road and other conditions and that any driver will proceed at no greater a rate than would permit her to stop within the distance she can see ahead of her. Specific speed limits are posted to assure that drivers follow these basic concepts. If you feel that the officer has interpreted the law incorrectly, you should go to court and explain your point to the judge.

  • Pay your ticket by mailing in a payment to the court or paying online on the Iowa Courts system's e-payment link. Paying a ticket without appearing in court is considered a plea of no contest, or "default finding of guilt" and the violation will be entered on your driver record as a conviction. You may not be able to appeal a case if you have just paid the ticket and not participated in a trial.

  • You can go to a pretrial conference with the prosecuting attorney and discuss your case and any "mitigating" factors---reasons that you might have been speeding or not known the limit. If the arresting officer has made a mistake or the prosecutor feels that there is good reason, he may offer a compromise that changes the charge or alters the number of demerit points for the violation. This negotiated disposition must be approved by the judge.

  • Ask to have the case delayed and judgment deferred in order to attend traffic school. Most courts will dismiss first offenses if defendants take traffic safety courses offered by technical or vocational schools and drivers have a clean record for a certain period of time afterward. If this is not a first offense---or if the judge doesn't go along with the "deferred prosecution" idea, ask the judge for a reduction of charge based on conditions (mitigating circumstances) that you feel justify the reduction.

Tips & Warnings

  • In most Iowa courts, the officer writing the ticket is present for trial. If she's not (and there's no good reason), most judges will dismiss the case. At the preliminary hearing (sometimes called intake), though, the city, county or state may be represented by a "court officer" who represents the entire department---particularly if it's a small department with only a few officers on at one time. Iowa is a member of the Drivers License Compact (DLC) and Non-Resident Violator Compact (NRVC), reciprocal agreements with other states to share violation and suspension information and honor the judgments of other states. Iowa has its own reciprocal agreement with Wisconsin, a neighboring state that is not a member of the nationwide groups. Iowa also participates in the National Driver Register (NDR) and reports serious traffic violations, suspensions and revocations. If you have more questions than you can answer, consult a qualified traffic attorney. Their services aren't that expensive and most are happy to consult regarding your case. If there are complications, like an accident, injuries, or if drugs or alcohol are involved, you should consult an attorney. You can always stop court processes by telling the court you want to get a lawyer to help with your case.
  • Photo Credit DRW & Associates, Inc
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