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Citizens who took illegal safe driving classes sue to get their money back

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A class action lawsuit against three dozen Minnesota law enforcement agencies demands they refund money collected for safe driving classes that were found to be illegal.

The Star Tribune reports attorney Erick Kaardal argues his nine plaintiffs and others who took the classes should be paid more than $1 million.

The 36 police and sheriff's departments offered the classes in lieu of traffic tickets. Drivers could keep a ticket off their record by paying to take the class – which cost from $75 - $125, the Star Tribune says.

But while one-third of the revenue from traffic tickets is passed on to the state, local agencies were keeping all of the money from the classes. State Auditor Rebecca Otto looked into the issue last fall and determined the classes were illegal.

Otto estimated that between 2010 and 2012 law enforcement agencies collected $1.6 million through the classes, the Star Tribune says.

As KSTP reports, a judge in January confirmed Otto's contention that the classes were against the law and ordered Wabasha County to stop offering them. In announcing the lawsuit Thursday, Kaardal told the station: "If you get money illegally, you've got to give it back."

Here's the auditor's full review of the classes – officially known as traffic diversion programs.

The Star Tribune says three bills at the Legislature deal with the classes. Two would make them legal, while the other would expressly prohibit them.

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