Investigator duties and responsibilities
Under general direction, investigators perform field inspection and investigative work relating to vehicle registration and title fraud, vehicle dealer licensing, theft examinations on salvage vehicles, driver's license fraud and related identity theft, fee for new registration fraud, odometer fraud, and stolen vehicles. All positions are designated as state peace officers as defined in the Iowa Code.
Investigators work independently and are responsible for making decisions based upon information gathered. Investigators report to either the Bureau of Investigation & Identity Protection’s deputy director or director, who in turn report to the Motor Vehicle Division’s director.
The following is a brief description of duties performed by the motor vehicle investigator.
Vehicle title and registration
Investigators are responsible for assigning vehicle identification numbers to vehicles that have had the identification number lost, stolen or mutilated. When a vehicle is homemade or reconstructed, an investigator must examine it to check for compliance with the Iowa Code and Iowa DOT Administrative Rules. Responsibilities also include investigating cases involving fraudulent applications for motor vehicle titles, violations of the ownership and transfer of motor vehicles, and complaints of identity theft related to the application and issuance of Iowa registration and title documents.
Odometer fraud involves the fraudulent reduction of mileage on a vehicle to inflate its value. Investigators compile information and develop cases for possible prosecution on odometer fraud in cooperation with Iowa's Office of the Attorney General.
Fee for new registration fraud (formerly use tax fraud)
These investigations pertain to the sale and transfer of motor vehicles and aircraft subject to registration and when the purchase price may have been fraudulently represented or evaded. The investigator obtains title records, bills of sale, and cancelled checks; and conducts interviews to determine if a violation occurred. If criminal charges are warranted, the investigator files appropriate charges with the county attorney's office.
Driver's license fraud and related identity theft
These investigations involve the fraudulent alteration, manufacture, and application for Iowa driver’s licenses and nonoperator’s identification (ID) cards. Investigators interview witnesses and suspects, examine documents to determine their authenticity, and compile information for prosecution. They investigate complaints of identity theft related to the application and issuance of Iowa driver's license and ID cards. Investigators also provide training to law enforcement agencies, the Iowa DOT's Motor Vehicle Division staff, along with a variety of other private and public agencies on the detection of driver's license fraud and related identity theft.
Motor vehicle dealer license
Investigators conduct on-site inspections for dealer license applicants to determine if the facility meets minimum state standards for licensing as a motor vehicle dealer. Audits of licensed dealers are also conducted to determine if there is compliance with the Iowa Code and Administrative Rules. Consumer complaints against licensed dealers are investigated by motor vehicle investigators.
History of Iowa motor vehicle enforcement investigations
The Iowa DOT’s Motor Vehicle Division was established in 1904 under the secretary of state. In 1919, it became the department responsible for the registration and licensing of motor vehicles. Motor vehicle "agents" were given the authority to enforce motor vehicle laws in 1927.
In 1937, the dealer licensing statutes were enacted, and the motor vehicle agents began to enforce those laws. The Iowa Department of Public Safety was created in 1935 and the agents assigned to the Motor Vehicle Registration Division became "inspectors." Their primary responsibility was to investigate dealer license applicants and to act as a administrative liaisons with county treasurer’s offices. Beginning in the early 1950s, the inspectors and agents duties were combined and approximately 20 years later they became known as "investigators."
In 1975, the Iowa DOT was created and the Office of Motor Vehicle Enforcement was formed. The investigators assigned to the Iowa Department of Public Safety were transferred to the Iowa DOT. Because of the numerous enforcement duties that evolved, an investigative section was created. The functions of this section dealt primarily with dealer licensing and enforcement of registration laws. Approximately 30 personnel, including command staff, were originally assigned to this section. In the early 1980s, odometer fraud investigations were included to the section's responsibilities. In the late 1980s, use tax fraud and driver's license fraud investigations were added. In the 1990s, five Investigators were selected to specialize in areas of vehicle and dealer fraud, along with the areas of driver’s license and identity fraud. This specialized group focused on larger scale investigations and training in related areas.
Beginning in 2005, the efforts of this specialized team were felt by all investigative staff and helped foster an environment where all investigators focused more attention in the areas of motor vehicle and identification fraud while finding ways to more efficiently conduct general administrative investigations. At this time, investigators were given the responsibility of conducting investigations on vehicles being titled in Iowa that came back positive in the National Motor Vehicle Title and Information System.
In 2008, an investigative tool was added that provided a valuable resource in detecting identity fraud: image verification. This biometric tool enhanced investigative capabilities by detecting possible identity fraud shortly after issuance and provided a significant tool in protecting identities. This tool is in use today and has been upgraded to include the ability to enhance image quality, and has been linked to the gated identity issuance process.
In December 2013, the investigative unit became an independent bureau within the Motor Vehicle Division: the Bureau of Investigation & Identity Protection. Additional responsibilities given to the bureau include security within the driver and vehicle issuance processes and an expanded role in biometric use. The bureau is also responsible for related training in these areas. Bureau supervisors consist of a director and deputy director.
Career opportunities for a motor vehicle investigator
In order to become an Iowa motor vehicle investigator, persons must successfully complete the following four required tests.
- Fitness (Cooper Standards)
- P.O.S.T (Peace Officer Selection Test)
- M.M.P.I (Minnesota Multiphasic Psychological Evaluation)
- Oral Board
Certified Iowa peace officers are not required to complete a fitness test, as per Iowa Administrative Code. All applicants must successfully complete Investigative Bureau's fitness requirements.
Applicants are responsible for all personal costs (e.g., transportation, lodging, meals) incurred during the testing process.
As peace officers with statewide jurisdiction, the primary job responsibility of a motor vehicle investigator is the investigation of motor vehicle dealer compliance, vehicle registration, salvage vehicles, driver license fraud, fee for new registration fraud, odometer fraud, and stolen vehicles.
- Be a United States citizen and become an Iowa resident.
- Be at least 18 years of age.
- Possess a valid Iowa driver's license.
- Possess a high school diploma or general educational development (GED) diploma.
- Be in acceptable physical and mental condition to perform his/her duties under physically demanding conditions.
- Have uncorrected vision no worse than 20/100 in each eye, corrected to 20/20 in each eye.
- Have normal color vision as prescribed by Iowa Law Enforcement Academy rules: Color vision is determined by the pseudoisochromatic plate tests such as, but not limited to, the American Optical Co. (Required identification of 14 out of 18 plates.)
- Have normal hearing in each ear. (Hearing is considered normal when tested by an audiometer and hearing sensitivity thresholds are within 25 dB measured at 1000 Hz, 2000 Hz and 3000 Hz averaged together.)
- Is examined by a licensed physician or surgeon and meets the physical requirements necessary to fulfill the responsibilities of a law enforcement officer.
- Have refrained from unlawful use or experimentation of any drug, with the exception of marijuana or steroids, will disqualify an applicant. Unlawful use or experimentation of marijuana or steroids within five years from date of application will disqualify an applicant. Unlawful use or experimentation of marijuana or steroids occurring more than five years prior to the date of application will be evaluated.
- Not have a conviction of domestic assault.
- Be willing to relocate.
- Pass a background examination, including fingerprint search through state and national files.
In addition to these requirements, a motor vehicle investigator must meet these educational and experience requirements to be considered for employment:
Graduation and certification from an academy approved by the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy (ILEA) Director and Council and experience equal to two years of full-time peace officer work in the application, interpretation, investigation, and enforcement of motor vehicle laws and regulations;
post high school education with an emphasis in law enforcement, criminal justice, or police science may be substituted on the basis of 30 semester hours equals one year of the required experience to a maximum substitution of two years; no substitution for the graduation and certification from an ILEA approved academy is permitted;
employees with current continuous experience in the state executive branch that includes experience equal to 18 months full-time work as a Motor Vehicle Officer.
Pay scale under current contract (as of April 2014):
- $1,700.80 to $2,578.40 (biweekly)
- $44,220.80 to $67,038.40 (annual)
- Paid vacation
- Paid sick leave
- $20,000 paid life insurance
- Medical and dental insurance
- Pretax conversion program
- Iowa Public Employees Retirement System (IPERS) with retirement available at 55 after 22 years of service
- Deferred compensation
If you believe you meet the minimum qualifications and with proper training can perform the essential functions of a motor vehicle investigator with the Iowa DOT, you are encouraged to request an employment application packet during open application periods.