A Minnesota attorney has filed a class-action lawsuit demanding that 36 law enforcement agencies refund the proceeds garnered from offering safe driving classes in lieu of traffic tickets.

Attorney Erick Kaardal on Thursday announced the lawsuit filed in southeast Minnesota’s Third Judicial District on behalf of nine plaintiffs who seek to have money paid the program returned to them and other Minnesotans who have taken similar classes. The 90-page complaint that alleges law enforcement agencies participated in “false representation” by claiming the classes were legal when they weren’t.

The classes are the subject of at least three bills currently circulating in the Minnesota Legislature. Two bills seek to pull the classes into conformity with state law, while a third looks to deem them illegal.

District Judge James Fabian ordered the Wabasha County sheriff’s safe driving class to a halt after two county commissioners sued, alleging that law enforcement for years flouted a state law that prohibits such classes. Fabian called the program “a continued and repeated trespass on the laws of the state of Minnesota.”

The programs allow drivers to keep tickets off their records in exchange for paying to take a class ranging in price from $75-125. From 2010 to 2012, such classes raised about $1.6 million, according to a report by State Auditor Rebecca Otto. While about a third of the proceeds from most traffic tickets go to the state, most jurisdictions kept all of the fees generated from their classes. Otto repeatedly warned that such “off the books” alternatives were illegal.  In the two months since Fabian’s ruling, most of the remaining cities and counties closed similar safe driving classes. However, nine remain in operation.

Kaardal demands more than $1 million on behalf of his clients and is seeking more to join the class.
“All the County Sheriffs and Police Chiefs had to do was have lawful programs if they really wanted to benefit the public and help alleged offenders.” Kaardal said.

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