What Are Traffic Violations And Infractions In Iowa?
The Iowa Vehicle Code contains rules and laws which prevent road users from engaging in unsafe behavior while on the road. A violation of any of these rules is a traffic offense, and the offender incurs civil or criminal liability ranging from fines, penalty points, and license suspension to imprisonment.
As the statutory agency responsible for maintaining detailed records of traffic violations or infractions, the Iowa Department of Transportation (DoT) fosters public accountability of drivers and disseminates driving records. Requesters may also obtain these records from independent repositories such as Iowacourtrecords.us.
What Are Felony & Misdemeanor Traffic Violations In Iowa?
Iowa traffic violations are offenses that result in criminal liability for the offender. Traffic violations are further classified as felonies or misdemeanors, depending on the severity of the crime.
Felony traffic violations are those offenses that cause grave damage to life and could be potentially fatal. Iowa traffic laws take traffic felonies very seriously, and offenders are usually sentenced to jail. The length of incarceration depends on the class of offense: traffic felonies resulting in loss of life bear the lengthiest imprisonment. Furthermore, Iowa has a three-strikes law that imposes severe penalties such as jail time and hefty fines on habitual offenders.
Conversely, traffic misdemeanors are less serious offenses than traffic felonies, but the offender may also incur criminal liability, especially with a habitual violation. Iowa’s classification of felonies also applies to traffic violations, and the punishment for a felony traffic violation will reflect its class.
- Class A felony - Carries mandatory life imprisonment, e.g., intentional vehicular homicide.
- Class B Felony - Mostly punishable by up to 25 years imprisonment. An example is OWI resulting in the death of one or more persons.
- Class C Felony - punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
- Class D Felony - punishable by up to 5 years in prison or a fine of up to $7,500. An example is wilfully eluding a uniformed officer after visual and audio signals to stop.
Examples of Felony Traffic Violations in Iowa
The following are examples of traffic violations considered felonies:
- Vehicular homicide due to negligence
- OWI resulting in grave bodily injury
- Intentional vehicular homicide
- OWI resulting in the unintentional death of a passenger or road user
- Reckless driving with disregard for safety
- Any felony while using a motor vehicle
- Hit and Run resulting in death
What are Traffic Misdemeanors in Iowa?
Traffic violations classified as misdemeanors in Iowa are less severe than traffic felony but more serious than traffic infractions. Furthermore, the punishment for misdemeanors in Iowa is reflective of its class viz:
- Aggravated misdemeanor - up to 2 years confinement and $6,250 in fines. An example is OWI, with a minor in the car.
- Serious misdemeanor - up to 1-year confinement or $315 - $1875 in fines. An example is eluding a law enforcement vehicle in pursuit.
- Simple misdemeanor - $65 to $625 in fines or 30 days in jail, in lieu of confinement. An example is drag racing and reckless driving.
Examples of Traffic Misdemeanors in Iowa
Per the Iowa Vehicle Code, here are some examples of traffic misdemeanors in the state:
- Operating a vehicle without valid registration
- Fraudulent use of a registration or permit
- Abandoning a vehicle
- Refusal to submit to chemical testing.
- First OWI offense
- Making a false statement to the Department of Transportation
What Constitutes a Traffic Infraction in Iowa?
Iowa traffic infractions are the least serious of traffic offenses, but they can carry unsavory implications. Drivers and road users who commit traffic infractions receive traffic tickets or citations. The severity of a traffic infraction is measured in penalty points based on a point system. These points are recorded against the driver’s license, and offenders who accumulate too many points risk license suspension, probation, or disqualification.
Examples of Traffic Infractions in Iowa
Some of the traffic infractions in Iowa include:
- Failure to yield right of way
- Violating a traffic signal
- Failure to yield to an emergency vehicle
- Use of electronic device while driving
- Obstructing traffic
- Improper lane change
- Scheduled weight violations
- Driving without a license
How Does a Traffic Ticket Work In Iowa?
Iowa traffic tickets, also known as citations, are official notices issued to road users who commit traffic infractions. An officer who issues a traffic ticket will record information such as:
- The name of the driver
- The address of the driver
- Registration number of vehicle
- A brief description of the offense
- Details of its severity and associated penalty points
- Schedule of fines
- Associated court costs
- Signature of the driver
In addition to these, a traffic ticket will also contain information on how to resolve it. If the driver has to pay the ticket, the officer will not tick the “Must Appear” box on the ticket. On the other hand, if the infraction requires a court appearance, the issuing officer will tick the “Must Appear” box on the ticket and indicate the date of appearance and the presiding court’s location on the ticket.
While paying a ticket is the fastest way to resolve the infraction, it is also an inadvertent admission of guilt by the offender. The driver may choose to contest the ticket in court if they can prove no wrongdoing or legitimate reason for committing the infraction. The court will grant a fair hearing, but the responsibility of proving innocence is on the individual. For example, a doctor’s report describing a medical emergency at the time of infraction can be favorable, but it is not a guarantee that the court will dismiss the ticket.
To pay a ticket, the individual may visit the local court in person or pay the ticket online. Several service providers also resolve traffic tickets on their client’s behalf. For offenders who cannot pay the full fine at once, they may petition the court for a payment plan.
Many a driver chooses to ignore a traffic ticket, but this can result in more severe consequences than the initial offense. Generally, the court will issue a notice to appear before the due date on the ticket. Individuals who choose to ignore this notice will be found in contempt of the court, and the judge will issue a failure to appear (FTA) order for their arrest. Other unsavory consequences include license revocation, increased auto insurance rates, and stiffer penalties for habitual offenders.
The Difference Between a Moving and Non-moving Violation
A moving violation refers to a traffic violation that occurred while the vehicle is in motion, such as speeding or driving with an unrestrained minor. For the former, the officer will issue a speeding ticket. Iowa does not measure speeding by points. Instead, law enforcement award fines based on a compendium of scheduled fines and violations.
Conversely, a non-moving violation refers to a traffic violation that occurred when the vehicle is not in motion. A non-moving violation applies whether the driver is in the car or not, so far as the vehicle was not in motion when the violation occurred. A common example is parking by a fire hydrant, which attracts a parking ticket.
While Iowa’s point system does not assign points to moving and non-moving violations, drivers who have three or more violations within 12 months will have their license suspended, canceled, revoked, or barred according to Section 4 of the Iowa MVD manual. The point system applies to habitual offenders, and the Department of Transportation uses it to determine the length of the sanction on a driver’s license.
How to Get a Traffic Ticket Dismissed In Iowa
The individual must begin by filing a petition to contest or entering a “not guilty” plea in the local court. They must do this before the ticket is due and must not have paid the ticket. Dismissing a traffic ticket in Iowa involves demonstrating innocence, good cause for the violation, or prejudice by the issuing officer. As mentioned earlier, the burden of proof is on the individual. Likewise, the court may present the individual with the option of completing a defensive driving course to qualify for ticket dismissal.
Are Driving Records Public In Iowa?
Yes, under the Iowa Open Records Law, the public may examine driving records in the natural custodian’s possession. This request is directed to the Department of Transportation in Iowa.
A driving record is a collection of all public records on an individual’s driving activities. It details the individual’s license suspension, outstanding penalty points, tickets, accidents, as well as their personal information. While driving records are public records, the Iowa Driver Privacy Protection Act legally binds the DoT from disclosing private information including a photograph, address, social security number, and medical evaluation records to public requesters. Consequently, a public requester must obtain a written and signed consent from the driver.
Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching simpler, as they are not limited by geographic location, and search engines on these sites may help when starting a search for a specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:
- The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
- The location or assumed location of the record or person involved. This includes information such as the city, county, or state that the person resides in or was accused in.
Third-party sites are independent of government sources and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party sites may vary.
How To Find Driving Records In Iowa?
As the official custodian of driving records, the Department of Transportation disseminates driving records in Iowa. Requests can be made in person at the DoT’s office, by mail, or online.
- In-person & mail requests: The requester must complete a motor vehicle record request form. Then, they must enclose the completed form, copy their driver’s license or government-issued photo ID, and check in a self-addressed stamped envelope. The check must be made for the appropriate amount and payable to “Treasurer, State of Iowa.” The DoT charges $0.50 per page. Send the mail request to:
Driver & Identification Services
Iowa Department of Transportation
P. O. Box 9204
Des Moines, Iowa 50306–9204
- Online requests: This is typically the fastest way to obtain a driver’s record. The department of Transportation allows requesters to obtain certified and non-certified driving records online. Non-certified records are free of charge and obtained on the DoT portal. For certified copies, the requester must visit the applicable request portal. This service costs $5.50 and a processing fee of $1.50. In either case, the requester must provide the last five numbers of their social security number and license number.
Can Traffic Violations And Infractions Be Expunged/Sealed In Iowa?
It depends. Records on traffic felony convictions cannot be sealed or expunged in Iowa. On the other hand, the court will weigh a petition to seal records of a traffic misdemeanor against the public’s right to access the record. Concerning traffic infractions, convictions and penalty points remain on the driver’s license for five (5) years. A driver may apply for point reduction by completing an 8-hour driver improvement program.