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Car seizures at DUI checkpoints prove profitable for cities, raise legal questions

Sobriety checkpoints in California are increasingly turning into profitable operations for local police departments that are far more likely to seize cars from unlicensed motorists than catch drunken drivers.

An investigation by the Investigative Reporting Program at UC Berkeley with California Watch has found that impounds at checkpoints in 2009 generated an estimated $40 million in towing fees and police fines – revenue that cities divide with towing firms.

Additionally, police officers received about $30 million in overtime pay for the DUI crackdowns, funded by the California Office of Traffic Safety.

In dozens of interviews over the past three months, law enforcement officials and tow truck operators say that vehicles are predominantly taken from minority motorists – often illegal immigrants.

In the course of its examination, the Investigative Reporting Program reviewed hundreds of pages of city financial records and police reports, and analyzed data documenting the results from every checkpoint that received state funding during the past two years. Among the findings:

  • Sobriety checkpoints frequently screen traffic within, or near, Hispanic neighborhoods. Cities where Hispanics represent a majority of the population are seizing cars at three times the rate of cities with small minority populations. In South Gate, a Los Angeles County city where Hispanics make up 92 percent of the population, police confiscated an average of 86 vehicles per operation last fiscal year.
  • The seizures appear to defy a 2005 federal appellate court ruling that determined police cannot impound cars solely because the driver is unlicensed. In fact, police across the state have ratcheted up vehicle seizures. Last year, officers impounded more than 24,000 cars and trucks at checkpoints. That total is roughly seven times higher than the 3,200 drunken driving arrests at roadway operations. The percentage of vehicle seizures has increased 53 percent statewide compared to 2007.
  • Departments frequently overstaff checkpoints with officers, all earning overtime. The Moreno Valley Police Department in Riverside County averaged 38 officers at each operation last year, six times more than federal guidelines say is required. Nearly 50 other local police and sheriff’s departments averaged 20 or more officers per checkpoint – operations that averaged three DUI arrests a night. 

Law enforcement officials say demographics play no role in determining where police establish checkpoints.

Indeed, the Investigative Reporting Program’s analysis did not find evidence that police departments set up checkpoints to specifically target Hispanic neighborhoods. The operations typically take place on major thoroughfares near highways, and minority motorists are often caught in the checkpoints’ net.

“All we’re looking for is to screen for sobriety and if you have a licensed driver,” said Capt. Ralph Newcomb of the Montebello Police Department. “Where you’re from, what your status is, that never comes up.”

Additionally, the 2005 appellate court ruling includes exceptions, allowing police to seize a vehicle driven by an unlicensed motorist when abandoning it might put the public at risk. Examples include vehicles parked on a narrow shoulder or obstructing fire lanes.

But reporters attending checkpoints in Sacramento, Hayward and Los Angeles observed officers impounding cars that appeared to pose no danger.

Reporters also noted that many of the drivers who lost their cars at these checkpoints were illegal immigrants, based on interviews with the drivers and police. They rarely challenge vehicle seizures or have the cash to recover their cars, studies and interviews show.

Some tow truck company officials relayed stories of immigrant mothers arriving at impound lots to remove baby car seats and children’s toys before leaving the vehicle to the tow firm.

“I have to stand here for days and watch them take their whole life out of their vehicles,” said Mattea Ezgar, an office manager at Terra Linda Towing in San Rafael.

This wasn’t what lawmakers intended when they passed an impound law 15 years ago – the same law that the federal court has since questioned, said David Roberti, former president of the state Senate.

“When something is that successful, then maybe it’s too easy to obtain an impoundment, which should usually be way more toward the exception than the rule,” Roberti said.

The impound law granted police the authority to seize unlicensed drivers’ cars for 30 days. The California Attorney General’s Office said in a written statement that the state law is murky in terms of whether vehicles driven by unlicensed motorists can be taken at all.

Police do not typically seize the cars of motorists arrested for drunken driving, meaning the owners can retrieve their vehicles the next day, according to law enforcement officials.

To be sure, DUI checkpoints have saved countless lives on the nation’s roadways and have brought thousands of drunken drivers to justice. And by inspecting driver’s licenses, police catch motorists driving unlawfully, typically without insurance, and temporarily remove them from the road.

With support from groups such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving, California more than doubled its use of sobriety checkpoints the past three years.

State officials have declared that 2010 will be the “year of the checkpoint.” Police are scheduling 2,500 of the operations in every region of California. Some departments have begun to broaden the definition of sobriety checkpoints to include checking for unlicensed drivers.

Checkpoint impact not limited to drunken drivers

The checkpoints have rocked lives of sober motorists such as Luis Gomez.

In the early evening of Jan. 2 of this year, Gomez was driving his Chevy truck through downtown Los Angeles when traffic slowed to a stop.

A couple blocks from the Staples Center, orange cones narrowed Olympic Boulevard’s three westbound lanes to two. Los Angeles Police Department officers, stationed beneath a freeway overpass, began questioning drivers as part of a DUI checkpoint.

Gomez, a 42-year-old construction worker, said the roadblock didn’t concern him. He said he doesn’t drink alcohol.

But the illegal immigrant was driving without a license. Gomez received a traffic citation.

A tow truck operator took his truck.

Owners who do recover their vehicles pay between $1,000 and $4,000 in tow and storage charges and fines assessed by local governments, municipal finance records show.

Officers do not inquire about the drivers’ residency status. Nor do they contact U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement when they suspect unlicensed motorists are in the country illegally.

Gomez said he’d try to save whatever money he could to get back his truck. The Chevy is critical for him to continue finding work at construction sites, jobs that have supported him for two decades in the United States.

“It’s going to be hard, because times are hard,” Gomez said.

Impounds aid cash-strapped local governments

Cities have their own money problems.

Since 2007, the sales tax revenues of California municipalities have shrunk by $471 million, figures from the California State Board of Equalization show.

Property values have withered, too, causing financial woes at every level of government.

“If a city wants to try to raise revenue, in mostly all cases you have to go to the voters,” said Daniel Carrigg, legislative director for the League of California Cities. Local governments, instead, are adding to fees for services and fines for an assortment of violations.

Local governments often charge unlicensed drivers a fine to get their vehicles released from impound – on average more than $150, finance records show. Cities, increasingly, also get a cut of the fees that tow operators charge vehicle owners, generating hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.

Some local governments ensure they get a larger share as their police departments seize more and more cars.

In Los Angeles County, the city of Montebello requires its tow operator to increase its cut of impound revenue when the police department seizes a higher volume of cars.

Tow company Helms and Hill Inc. pays Montebello $200 per tow when officers order more than 151 cars hauled away each month, the city’s finance records show.

Montebello’s DUI checkpoints rank among California’s least effective at getting drunks off the road.

Last year, officers there failed to conduct a single field sobriety test at three of the city’s five roadway operations, state records show.

Montebello collected upward of $95,000 during the last fiscal year from checkpoints, including grant money for police overtime.

The California Office of Traffic Safety, which is administered in part by officials at UC Berkeley, continues to fund Montebello’s operations, providing a fresh $37,000 grant for this year.

Checkpoint location may influence impounds

Most of the state’s 3,200 roadblocks over the past two years occurred in or near Hispanic neighborhoods, the Investigative Reporting Program’s analysis shows. Sixty-one percent of the checkpoints took place in locations with at least 31 percent Hispanic population. About 17 percent of the state’s checkpoints occurred in areas with the lowest Hispanic population – under 18 percent.

Further, police impound the most cars per checkpoint in cities where Hispanics are a majority of the population, according to state traffic safety statistics and U.S. Census data.

For 12 years, Francisco Ruiz has run El Potro, a Latin music nightclub, at the northeast corner of A Street and Hesperian Boulevard in Hayward. Not once had he seen a DUI checkpoint. Then, in 2009, the city’s police department conducted four operations just outside his front door.

“They’re not taking drunk drivers,” Ruiz said as he watched cars crawl through a Dec. 18 checkpoint at the intersection. “They’re taking people without a license.”

An hour into the operation that evening, officers had yet to make a DUI arrest, reporters observed.

But about a half dozen cars were impounded, leaving drivers stranded. Only one of the drivers could show he was a legal U.S. resident.

The state does not consistently collect data on where local police departments set up checkpoints. A majority of California law enforcement agencies declined to release records showing which intersections they target, or what transpired at checkpoints, making it difficult to perform a statistical analysis of seizures in heavily minority communities.

But cities across the state operate checkpoints in high-minority communities, the Investigative Reporting Program found through demographic data and more than three dozen interviews with law enforcement officials at DUI crackdowns.

In the Los Angeles suburb of South Gate, Hispanics make up 92 percent of the population. The police department averaged 86 impounds each time officers shut down a road last year for a sobriety checkpoint. By comparison, they averaged a little more than four drunken driving arrests.

Checkpoints in cities where Hispanics are the largest share of the population seized 34 cars per operation, a rate three times higher than cities with the smallest Hispanic populations, the Investigative Reporting Program’s analysis shows.

The checkpoint data tells a similar story in two-dozen other cities. A majority of these communities are crowded together east of Los Angeles within the Inland Empire.

The disparity between vehicles impounds and DUI arrests exist in virtually every region of California.

Marin County checkpoints raise questions

San Rafael sits at the entrance to the northern Bay Area, crisscrossed by freeways from San Francisco and East Bay cities.

Hispanics comprise only a quarter of the city’s residents, according to demographic data from the U.S. Census Bureau. San Rafael’s Hispanic neighborhoods cluster along the freeways, near the water in what is called the Canal District.

During the past two years, 10 of the city’s 12 sobriety checkpoints took place on streets surrounding these neighborhoods. Those operations resulted in four DUI arrests and 121 impounded cars for driver’s license violations.

“We do not put checkpoints right there in the Canal District,” said Lt. Glenn McElderry, head of San Rafael police’s traffic unit.

While police have not staged operations directly inside the Canal District, the department’s records show San Rafael officers repeatedly conducted checkpoints right outside the neighborhood.

During the past two years, police sobriety checkpoints halted traffic on the Canal District’s two primary feeder streets – Francisco and Bellam boulevards.

McElderry said San Rafael police start their checkpoints in the southern part of the city, near the Canal District, and then move to intersections further north after 10 p.m. when traffic slows.

San Rafael’s data on drunken driving arrests, made independent of checkpoints during the past three months, show police made 20 DUI arrests, only three of which took place in the Canal District.

Impounds at DUI checkpoints are incidental, not intentional, law enforcement officials argue.  And the operations do not target Hispanic communities, they say.

“Our checkpoints are sobriety and driver’s license, but one thing we always emphasize: The reason why we’re out here are drunk drivers,” said Officer Don Inman, grant administrator for the Los Angeles Police Department’s traffic division. “The driver’s license, that’s just a side issue that we deal with. We always try to make sure we pick in locations where we’re going to get drunk drivers.”

LAPD averaged six DUI arrests per checkpoint in 2009, state data shows, more than most California departments.

The state traffic safety agency requires that police wait until 6 p.m. to begin screening cars, though a few start earlier. The checkpoints typically last six hours over a single night.

Even still, the LAPD’s driver’s license impounds doubled the past two years. One operation in December netted 64 vehicle seizures and four drunken driving arrests.

One police agency, the California Highway Patrol, has far different results at its checkpoints. In 2008, state records show, the CHP arrested four intoxicated motorists for every one car that deputies seized.

The highway patrol does not charge a fee to release impounded vehicles and collects no revenue from seizures, said Sgt. Kevin Davis, who oversees checkpoints in CHP’s research and planning division.

Police say they consider a number of factors when setting up a checkpoint.

Sgt. Dennis Demerjian, of the El Monte Police Department, said he typically consults his agencies’ internal data to find intersections where clusters of alcohol-involved collisions have taken place.

Riverside County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Jarod Howe said roadways must have heavy traffic to justify placing officers there.

A street needs to be wide enough to allow cars to pull off safely. Officers also need space to conduct field sobriety tests and question motorists without licenses.

And the area needs to accommodate the tow trucks to remove seized vehicles, Howe acknowledged.

Police and state traffic safety officials contend that impounding the cars of unlicensed drivers is, like catching drunken drivers, a critical part of making California’s roads less dangerous.

“It’s well known that drivers driving without licenses are frequently involved in accidents,” said Sgt. Jeff Lutzinger, the head of Hayward’s traffic safety division.

Research by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has shown that motorists driving with a suspended or revoked license cause collisions at a higher rate.  These drivers are also typically uninsured.

The state’s traffic safety office has declared vehicle seizures an effective way to remove risky, uninsured drivers.

“Law enforcement agencies have stated that these tools have helped decrease the number of unsafe drivers on public roads as well as reduce the number of hit-and-run traffic collisions,” a 2005 report from the state agency said.

Funding for DUI crackdowns plays major role

The federal government provides the California Office of Traffic Safety about $100 million each year to promote responsible driving that reduces roadway deaths. Of that, $30 million goes into programs that fund drunken driving crackdowns, particularly checkpoints.

Police officer overtime accounts for more than 90 percent of the expense of sobriety checkpoints. Departments do not assign officers to work checkpoints during their regular shifts.

Law enforcement agencies tend to use more officers than a checkpoint requires, according to guidelines established by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Statewide, police departments on average deployed 18 officers at each checkpoint, according to state data. The federal traffic safety agency advises that police can set up DUI checkpoints with as few as six officers.

The additional dozen officers typical at a California roadway operation cost state and federal taxpayers an extra $5.5 million during the 2008-09 fiscal year, according to the Investigative Reporting Program’s analysis.

The LAPD sent 35 officers, on average, to every sobriety crackdown.

At least a dozen officers spent hours sitting and chatting at an operation in early January in downtown Los Angeles. A couple of officers smoked cigars as they watched cars go through the screening.

Officers seized 22 cars that evening and made one DUI arrest.

The state data shows that last fiscal year LAPD spent $16,200 per checkpoint, all of it on officer overtime.

Impounds a lucrative business for cities, towing companies

Cities and private towing operators make tens of millions of dollars a year from checkpoints. This cash comes from tow fees and daily storage charges, finance records at a half dozen cities show.

If the car’s owner cannot afford to recover the vehicle, then after 45 days, the tow operator can sell it to pay the bill.

Cities are also increasingly charging franchise fees to tow operators.

The fees give cities a cut of the more lucrative side of towing, the long-term storage costs from 30-day impounds.

In early 2007, El Monte’s top officials went shopping for new tow contracts.

The suburb, east of Los Angeles, had called on tow operators to remove almost 5,000 cars a year from its streets, El Monte Police Chief Ken Weldon explained in a memo to the city manager.

The operators hauled the cars at no cost to El Monte; however the chief found the city was denying itself a source of cash.

“A survey of surrounding agencies revealed that many agencies are recovering costs by collecting a ‘franchise fee’ from the tow company,” Weldon, now retired, wrote.

On average, nearby cities charged tow operators $50 for every car the police department ordered towed or impounded. Weldon calculated the fee would provide El Monte $241,600 a year.

The city wrote the fees into its new contracts with Albert’s Towing and Freddie Mac’s Towing.

During holiday checkpoints last fiscal year, El Monte police seized 680 cars for driver’s license violations, state data shows.

Each of the impounds was worth at least $2,035 in tow charges and fees, according to city financial records. El Monte received at least $164,000 from the vehicle seizures.

The city’s tow operators likely collected about $1.2 million from the seizures. That figure might have been higher or lower, depending on how many car owners retrieved their vehicles and what price the companies got for the remaining impounded cars.

Owners abandon their cars at tow lots roughly 70 percent of the time, said Perry Shusta, owner of Arrowhead Towing in Antioch and vice president of the California Tow Truck Association.

Tow operators provide communities a kind of garbage service, removing junk cars that don’t operate and are worth only the value of their metal frame.

DUI checkpoints catch a higher quality of vehicle, Shusta said. “The good cars are how we afford to get rid of all the cities’ junk.”

Impounds spur search and seizure concerns

The Fourth Amendment specifically restricts law enforcement’s authority to seize private property without a court order.

“It is assumed under the law that the taking of personal property without a warrant is unconstitutional,” said Martin J. Mayer, a founding partner in the Fullerton law firm Jones & Mayer, which represents numerous police agencies.

The law protects everyone within the United States, regardless of whether they are in the country illegally.

California police have seized the cars of unlicensed drivers for 15 years under the state law that allows such vehicles to be impounded for 30 days.

But in 2005, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in an Oregon case that law enforcement can’t impound a vehicle if the only offense is unlicensed driving.

One exception is called the “community caretaker” doctrine, which permits police to impound a car if it poses a threat to public safety, is parked illegally or would be vandalized imminently if left in place.

The ruling dramatically altered the law regarding vehicle impounds.  In response, the Legislative Counsel of California in 2007 called into question the legality of the state’s impound procedures.

“If a peace officer lawfully stops a motor vehicle on the highway and the driver of the motor vehicle is an unlicensed driver, that alone is not sufficient justification for the peace officer to cause the impoundment of the motor vehicle,” Legislative Counsel Diane F. Boyer-Vine, who advises state lawmakers, wrote in a response to Sen. Gilbert A. Cedillo, D-Los Angeles. The legislative counsel has no authority over police departments.

A lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of California’s 30-day impound law is awaiting oral arguments before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals later this year. The state and several cities that are defendants in the case argue that impounds are penalties for a criminal offense, and therefore car owners are not subject to Fourth Amendment protection.

Most California law enforcement agencies continue to seize vehicles based on driver’s license violations alone.

Reporters with the Investigative Reporting Program observed police at checkpoints in three different cities impound cars after the vehicles had been moved out of harm's way and parked legally.

Mayer represents the California Peace Officers Association and also alerted law enforcement that the federal ruling prohibited the state’s police from seizing cars solely on the charge of unlicensed driving.

The attorney said he was startled by his clients’ angry response to his memo explaining the appeals court case.

“I never expected the volume of e-mails, phone calls and death threats all from law enforcement, especially motor officers,” Mayer said. “I’m being flippant you understand. They wanted to kill me though because I’m interfering with a process they’ve been doing for years.”

Former state Sen. Roberti, then chairman of the Senate’s Judiciary Committee, said he and his fellow lawmakers did not consider how the 1995 impound law might impact unlicensed drivers.

“It’s turned out to be a far more vigorous enforcement than any of us would have dreamed of at the time,” he said.

Ryan Gabrielson, the winner of the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for Local Reporting, is a reporter and fellow at UC Berkeley’s Investigative Reporting Program directed by Lowell Bergman, one of the founders of the Center for Investigative Reporting.
 


This story was edited by Mark Katches and Lowell Bergman. It was copy edited by William Cooley.

Filed under: Public Safety

Comments

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Anonymous's picture
This is an interesting story, but poorly constructed and clumsily written. The author may have won awards for other efforts, but this particular story is a mess and difficult/confusing to read.
fallar's picture
Sobriety checkpoints are set up to try and make sure they pick in locations where they're going to get drunk drivers. That's the whole idea of sobreity check points. If that happens to be in Hispanic living areas, that is NOT targeting illegal immigrants as many are suggesting. If some of these areas live many illegal drivers or illegal immigrants with no drivers license, than so be it. They are breaking the law. The last time I checked, drivers licenses are required to drive a car in the United States. Civil rights are NOT being denied here as others would suggest. Law enforcement is just doing their job. I see these check points as a friendly reminder, we will not accept drinking and driving in our communties. tarot falı - iskambil falı
seo007's picture
pattypetrillo's picture
All of these makes sense, great report and ideas. Yes, Sobriety checkpoints is kind of necessary for them to get the drunk drivers and of course they had to make sure the locations as well.
sam_smith's picture
Students who choose to pursue a career in massage therapy can do so by enrolling in an accredited educational training program. There are a variety of schools and colleges that specialize in these types of studies, as well as other educational facilities. Training can be completed in a number of areas and will prepare students to enter the workforce as massage therapists. Students can start by following a few steps to ensure they gain the education they desire.
soniatrevor's picture
I disagree with you because the article is well written. The author explain well how the DUI effects the city.
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Anonymous's picture
I didn't find it confusing to read.
adhyatma3010's picture
neither do i
Anonymous's picture
Neither did I.
Anonymous's picture
So, based on your investigations, illegal immigrants are more likely to NOT have a drivers license than legal citizens? That makes perfect sense.
Anonymous's picture
As a reminder, driving is a PRIVILEGE, not a RIGHT. Here's a suggestion to those driving illegally: Play by the rules or have that privilege taken away. What is so difficult to understand???
Anonymous's picture
What rules? The "DUI Exception" to the Constitution has been, rather predictably, abused to the max. This is about SUBMISSION. This is a POLICE STATE TACTIC.
Anonymous's picture
How brain-washed does a person need to be to actually believe that driving is a privilege??? Wake up dummy: In a free society, traveling is a right, not a privilege.
Anonymous's picture
Anyone can travel. Driving is in fact a privilege. If you do not hold a license to do such, travel by bus, travel by cab, travel by train. You are an absolute dolt with your above statement.
varagonv1's picture
what's clearly difficult for YOU to understand is the RULE that is broken for driving without a license doesn't call for a 30-day impound, it calls for an impound ONLY if the car cannot be safely parked in a legal parking spot. So read the god damn rule before you sit and make your uneducated, unintelligent comments.
Anonymous's picture
This is the worst written article I've ever come across, it's horrible!
Anonymous's picture
States stoop to new lows to get money...no surprise there.
Anonymous's picture
In Europe, driving without a license can land you in prison. I don't see a problem with what is described in this story.
Anonymous's picture
Yeah? Is that so? Well in AMERICA we have the Constitution, which protects our rights. Go live in Greece.
Anonymous's picture
If the Constitution was still in effect this BS would not happen. Blatant violation of the fourth amendment.
Anonymous's picture
Well, haven't all the "Heros in Blue" standing around making overtime, just warms the cockles of my heart. Screw the taxpayer, that what I say!
Anonymous's picture
The police are behaving as thugs organized into gangs for the purpose of theft. The citizens being robbed should respond accordingly.
Anonymous's picture
word
Anonymous's picture
They are not citizens- get it? And by the way the whole state is now a Hispanic neighborhood.
Anonymous's picture
Message to illegals: You break our laws you lose. Go home to mexico and tell your friends.
varagonv1's picture
wow, now that's intelligent. Should I remind you that not all "illegals" are Mexican... but wait, your pea-sized brain can't process that much information. and what's clearly difficult for YOU to understand is the RULE that is broken for driving without a license doesn't call for a 30-day impound, it calls for an impound ONLY if the car cannot be safely parked in a legal parking spot. So read the god damn rule before you sit and make your uneducated, unintelligent comments.
Anonymous's picture
These types of checkpoints are illegal anyway.
Anonymous's picture
Exactly. The fact that they exist raises legal questions.
Anonymous's picture
Anything that messes with ILLEGAL immigrants is an excellent idea. CNN had a poll a few months ago that showed 75% of the country wants illegal immigration stopped. Even in heavily liberal NY state the governor lost 40 points off his approval rating when he said he wanted to give drivers licenses to illegal immigrants. After he saw those poll numbers he changed his mind pretty quick.
Anonymous's picture
Why did the author not identify the relevant legal cases by citation or at least by name so those interested could follow them?
varagonv1's picture
miranda v. city of cornelius
varagonv1's picture
The 9th Circuit US Court of Appeal, in Miranda v. City of Cornelius, and the California Court of Appeal, in People v. Williams, found that impounding vehicles on the sole charge of driving without a license [absent consideration of the community caretaker doctrine] is per se unconstitutional.
Anonymous's picture
The mafia would be so proud.
Anonymous's picture
this cuntry is really starting to suck!
Anonymous's picture
Noncitizens don't have full constitutional rights. Issues of disparate impact shouldn't apply.
Anonymous's picture
there are many factual problems with this article. Too many to even start listing. These clowns give investigative journalism a bad name.
Anonymous's picture
Easy fix... Make it a law that impound fees are paid for by the law enforcement agency for the first 7 days. Any other vehicle code infractions are fair game through the court system. So if the owner shows up with a license or licensed driver to pick up the next day no harm no foul except for the ticket to the driver.
Anonymous's picture
Hey the CHP is now into carjacking. Great.
Anonymous's picture
Florida Highway Patrol falsifies crash reports and complete creates accident scenes with the help of state prosecutors. It is organized white collared crime, but it your government doing it. policeabuse.weebly.com
Anonymous's picture
driving might be a privilege granted by the state. but traveling is not.
Anonymous's picture
Another example of why California is the laughling-stock of the rest of America. Love to visit....no chance I'll ever live (buy home, pay taxes....) there.
Anonymous's picture
He is upset because Illegal Aliens are losing their cars? They should not be here in the first place and if they are driving they are breaking the law.
varagonv1's picture
he's not. he's upset b/c this behavior results in towing companies paying off the police departments to aggressively impound cars (e.g. Maywood chief's apartment paid for by towing company - look it up) rather than deal with murders, rapes, child pornography and all that other stuff that the police is REALLY supposed be worried about. he's upset because families are left on the side of the road hours from home, unable to make it to a doctor's appointment or wherever they were heading and now unable to pay to get their cars back when they could have easily parked the car safely or had a licensed driver come pick up the car. he's upset because we have this thing called a CONSTITUTION, and we have laws, and we have courts and we have a system of justice that has spoken on the matter (Miranda v. City of Cornelius) and yet the police, the very enforcers of this justice system are flagrantly ignoring it at the expense of taxpayers, at the expense of the rule of law, at the expense of the very principles on which our country is based. jesus people, what's wrong with you. how narrow can your brain be.
Anonymous's picture
I dont understand why there is a problem with taking a car away from someone who doesnt have a licsense to drive?
Anonymous's picture
can anyone post a comment? I thought it was a good story.
Anonymous's picture
I would've reported those LAPD officers smoking cigars to their Internal Affairs bureau. If I remember correctly from reading the LAPD Manual in Police Quest 4, officers in uniform are prohibited from using tobacco products while on duty.
Michael Pines's picture
These checkpoints should be used mainly to catch drunk drivers or drivers on drugs—not to harass and make life harder for minority motorists. The state authorities are pushing the boundaries between the laws of our country and the freedoms of individuals when these checkpoints are set up to not catch drunk drivers, but for other purposes such as this. —Michael Pines, San Diego Accident Attorney
Calitruth's picture
For those respondents who are so indignant about illegals flagrantly breaking our laws by not getting drivers licenses, let's be clear about what the law is; even if they wanted to, illegals are banned from obtaining driver's licenses in California. Although we allowed them to apply for driver's licenses for decades before 1994, lawmakers passed a ban on illegals getting drivers licenses as anti-immigrant sentiment swept the state during the recession of the early 1990's, culminating in the passage of Proposition 187, which aimed to deny all public services to illegal immigrants. That ballot measure was later overturned by the courts, but the license prohibition passed earlier by the legislature remains in place. California lawmakers have voted to repeal the ban many times since 1994, including 4 times under Schwarzenegger, all of which he has vetoed.
josecubich's picture
Yes, I had my experience with car seizure: A NEW YORK CITY MARSHALL "STOLE" MY CAR AND SOLD IT IN A PUBLIC AUCTION BECAUSE I REFUSED TO PAY TICKETS OR SUMMONS GIVEN TO A CAR THAT I COULD PROVE THAT IT WAS NOT MY CAR AND TO PLATES THAT WERE NOT MY PLATES. THE JUSTICE DEPARTMENT REFUSED TO INTERVENE, BUT I CONTINUED THE FIGHT AND AFTER A PANEL OF JUDGES REVIEWED THE CASE, THEY SAID THAT I DID NOT HAVE TO PAY THE FINES. BUT NOW IT WAS TOO LATE BECAUSE MY CAR WAS ALREADY SOLD BY THE CITY AND THEY ARGUED THAT "THE TIME TO SUE THE CITY IS PASSED". SO IT IS FAIR THEN FOR ME TO SAY THAT: "THE NEW YORK CITY MARSHALL STOLE MY CAR"
thecaptainb's picture
Sobriety checkpoints are set up to try and make sure they pick in locations where they're going to get drunk drivers. That's the whole idea of sobreity check points. If that happens to be in Hispanic living areas, that is NOT targeting illegal immigrants as many are suggesting. If some of these areas live many illegal drivers or illegal immigrants with no drivers license, than so be it. They are breaking the law. The last time I checked, drivers licenses are required to drive a car in the United States. Civil rights are NOT being denied here as others would suggest. Law enforcement is just doing their job. I see these check points as a friendly reminder, we will not accept drinking and driving in our communties.
Califin's picture
One potential problem is that a substantial portion of the state's income comes from income taxes on a small proportion of wealthy citizens. For example, it is estimated that in 2004 the richest 3% of state taxpayers (those with tax returns showing over 200K USD yearly income) paid approximately 60% of state income taxes.[77] The taxable income of this population is highly dependent upon capital gains, which has been severely impacted by the stock market declines of this period. The governor has proposed a combination of extensive program cuts and tax increases to address this problem, but owing to longstanding problems in the legislature these proposals are likely to be difficult to pass as legislation. Chi Flat Iron
plr_pete's picture

It seems pretty reasonable to me to take the car from a person who doesn't have a license and then make them pay for the towing and impound charges. Why not make it so that the car can be got back at anytime if it's re-registered in someone else's name who does have a license. Peter

anantve's picture
YOU to understand is the RULE that is broken for driving without a license doesn't call for a 30-day impound, it calls for an impound ONLY if the car cannot be safely parked in a legal parking spot. bunk beds
Raul Gonzales's picture
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aforakins's picture
Driving Under Influence checkpoints are very helpful. Permit Practice TestNDSS have taken all the questions from your states DMV driver license practice test exam and packaged them in random samplings of 50 questions or 100 questions packages.
robetgill's picture
For someone with a last name of Gonzales, you sure are barking up the wrong tree here. Especially since NONE OF THOSE THINGS YOU LISTED have anything to do with the money spent on way more than needed police workers for check points. Nor the fact the legality of these police searches. Much like the law for texting and hands free headsets.. they do not do much to improve safety on the road. mesothelioma attorney
Califin's picture
California's vast terrain is connected by an extensive system of freeways, expressways, and highways. California is known for its car culture, giving California's cities a reputation for severe traffic congestion. Construction and maintenance of state roads and statewide transportation planning are primarily the responsibility of the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans). The rapidly growing population of the state is straining all of its transportation networks, and a recurring issue in California politics is whether the state should continue to aggressively expand its freeway network or concentrate on improving mass transit networks in urban areas. - Original Chi Flat Iron
madhornet's picture
YOU to understand is the RULE that is broken for driving without a license doesn't call for a 30-day impound, it calls for an impound ONLY if the car cannot be safely parked in a legal parking spot. Jason V. tri heart plus
dietcooker's picture
The title car seizures tells everything. I believe drivers and car owners punishment by parking bills. Therefore the tax diet paid by citizens.
sasima65's picture
It is interesting to note that car seizures at DUI checkpoints prove profitable for cities and raise legal questions. It is good that investigation has been done to ascertain the records. It should be ensured that the police do their duty impartially and honestly. This apprehension is obvious in view of the major violators happen to be minority. I've enjoyed reading this nice article. Thanks.Laguna Beach Homes
miaflo18's picture
This may raise some legal issues but it's ok for this may prevent car theft (and also car parts theft i.e. car hitch) for this checks the people's records.
semag's picture
There are so many DUI checkpoints around California now. I know many people who have been caught out in this way. I think they are also cracking down on using cell phones whilst driving. I know someone who got caught playing online casino games on their cell and lost their licence!
Califin's picture
One of the state's more visible landmarks, the Golden Gate Bridge was completed in 1937. With its orange paint and panoramic views of the bay, this highway bridge is a popular tourist attraction and also accommodates pedestrians and bicyclists. It is simultaneously designated as U.S. Route 101, which is part of the El Camino Real (Spanish for Royal Road or King's Highway), and State Route 1, also known as the Pacific Coast Highway. Another of the seven bridges in the San Francisco Bay Area is the San Francisco – Oakland Bay Bridge, completed in 1936. This bridge transports approximately 280,000 vehicles per day on two-decks, with its two sections meeting at Yerba Buena Island. - Rocky The Robot
jacq007's picture
shelleysworld1's picture
I would like to ask those who are using the constitution to allow illegal immigrants. Who number one broke the law to live here with no consequence, not be liable for the first law they broke. Now the stupidest arguments in this state currently are the Police are racial profiling to take the cars of Illegals, who are illegality driving an uninsured vehicle, but this is unconstitutional so there for no more false drunk driving check points because they are only out to take what the illegal person drives with out being liable legally, Doesn't this ignorant ranting negate our rights a actual citizens of this country. We are not given the argument that the seizure of a vehicle, that was illegally operated on our roads my and American is not considered or was an issue prior to the now the only reason is to continual prejudicial treatment of an illegal, law breaking who has the liberal bleeding heart press screaming discrimination. NO Enough, Gee I lived in another state that ran check points when and were they saw fit, the intent was to keep illegal, not immigrants but non licensed drivers, uninsured, and those who place the safety of the law abiding at risk. They will, impound your car. immediate. you no up to the officer are standard regulations concerning all aspects of these laws. State wide. Go to Jail. If you have the money it is $3000 or better not bail money which you use a bond etc. You don't go to court you don;t go through the system. You broke the law, you are now fined and until the vehicle is registered, but first a licensed driver who first purchases insurance, and brings any non legal tag or the fine for letting insurance lap, you will not receive the vehicle. The tow company is not liable to keep the car for the mandatory 30 days as is done here. My van sat in a tow yard two weeks to raise the money need to get vehicle up to the mandatory laws to drive it. I paid $80.00 The $3ooo fine my hubby paid was the money that went to the county of the offense, no not getting enough, greed by tow companies. NO crying fowl when laws were broken. Didn't matter what race legal standing etc, the law stood and was for all equally. No excuses. If you allowed your car insurance to laps you were no longer a valid license driver. You were a criminal who was in violation of equal laws. To reinstate you would have to pay the insurance, the to be able to operate that vehicle, you paid $60.00 to the State Patrol operated DMV's testing and payment sites. If the vehicle was driving and you got popped since your local Law enforcement was sent the notification that you were in violation of the law. Repeat the jail. Fine, someone else to be licensed etc and so on. Why does California have to be so stupid, in violation of the rights constitutional rights violations. No equal treatment under the law is a violation as a citizen of my Constitutional Rights. Why does the rights of the law breaker become more important then the states, the people who are not law breakers, and those law enforcement who are made to feel like they are damned if they do or damned if they don/t. I hate the lax probation that DUI offenders are giving because it is a legal substance, and those who get caught impaired by an illegal one, are given different standards to be held accountable too. No supervised probation with mandatory testing. No spot probation checks, etc and so on. But the DUI offenders habitually see that since they are free to not be busted for not obey the Law, they will go for it and may next time kill while they are on their who knows how many DUI offenses. No Law equal no discretion up to those who are the arresting officers. Straight down the line you are equal. no measure for greedy tow companies to be the barons of the frontier raking it in,
shelleysworld1's picture

I would like to ask those who are using the constitution to allow illegal immigrants. Who number one broke the law to live here with no consequence, not be liable for the first law they broke. Now the stupidest arguments in this state currently are the Police are racial profiling to take the cars of Illegals, who are illegality driving an uninsured vehicle, but this is unconstitutional so there for no more false drunk driving check points because they are only out to take what the illegal person drives with out being liable legally, Doesn't this ignorant ranting negate our rights a actual citizens of this country. We are not given the argument that the seizure of a vehicle, that was illegally operated on our roads my and American is not considered or was an issue prior to the now the only reason is to continual prejudicial treatment of an illegal, law breaking who has the liberal bleeding heart press screaming discrimination. NO Enough, Gee I lived in another state that ran check points when and were they saw fit, the intent was to keep illegal, not immigrants but non licensed drivers, uninsured, and those who place the safety of the law abiding at risk. They will, impound your car. immediate. you no up to the officer are standard regulations concerning all aspects of these laws. State wide. Go to Jail. If you have the money it is $3000 or better not bail money which you use a bond etc. You don't go to court you don;t go through the system. You broke the law, you are now fined and until the vehicle is registered, but first a licensed driver who first purchases insurance, and brings any non legal tag or the fine for letting insurance lap, you will not receive the vehicle. The tow company is not liable to keep the car for the mandatory 30 days as is done here. My van sat in a tow yard two weeks to raise the money need to get vehicle up to the mandatory laws to drive it. I paid $80.00 The $3ooo fine my hubby paid was the money that went to the county of the offense, no not getting enough, greed by tow companies. NO crying fowl when laws were broken. Didn't matter what race legal standing etc, the law stood and was for all equally. No excuses. If you allowed your car insurance to laps you were no longer a valid license driver. You were a criminal who was in violation of equal laws. To reinstate you would have to pay the insurance, the to be able to operate that vehicle, you paid $60.00 to the State Patrol operated DMV's testing and payment sites. If the vehicle was driving and you got popped since your local Law enforcement was sent the notification that you were in violation of the law. Repeat the jail. Fine, someone else to be licensed etc and so on. Why does California have to be so stupid, in violation of the rights constitutional rights violations. No equal treatment under the law is a violation as a citizen of my Constitutional Rights. Why does the rights of the law breaker become more important then the states, the people who are not law breakers, and those law enforcement who are made to feel like they are damned if they do or damned if they don/t. I hate the lax probation that DUI offenders are giving because it is a legal substance, and those who get caught impaired by an illegal one, are given different standards to be held accountable too. No supervised probation with mandatory testing. No spot probation checks, etc and so on. But the DUI offenders habitually see that since they are free to not be busted for not obey the Law, they will go for it and may next time kill while they are on their who knows how many DUI offenses. No Law equal no discretion up to those who are the arresting officers. Straight down the line you are equal. no measure for greedy tow companies to be the barons of the frontier raking it in,

kevin22's picture
You make a good point about no insurance. Most states impound cars if thier is no insurance. This goes for legal and illegal people so anyone with out insurance has to pay to get the car back.
wr4455's picture
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Califin's picture
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hasank's picture
Sobriety checkpoints are set up to try and make sure they pick in locations where they're going to get drunk drivers. That's the whole idea of sobreity check points. If that happens to be in Hispanic living areas, that is NOT targeting illegal immigrants as many are suggesting. v-pills , ereksiyon problemi , penis büyütücü , erken boşalma
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Califin's picture
Intercity rail travel is provided by Amtrak California, which manages the three busiest intercity rail lines in the US outside the Northeast Corridor. Integrated subway and light rail networks are found in Los Angeles (Metro Rail) and San Francisco (MUNI Metro). Light rail systems are also found in San Jose (VTA), San Diego (San Diego Trolley), Sacramento (RT Light Rail), and Northern San Diego County (Sprinter). Furthermore, commuter rail networks serve the San Francisco Bay Area (ACE, BART, Caltrain), Greater Los Angeles (Metrolink), and San Diego County (Coaster). - Lionel Polar Express Train Set
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Califin's picture
The California High Speed Rail Authority was created in 1996 by the state to implement an extensive 700 mile (1127 km) rail system. Construction was approved by the voters during the November 2008 general election, a $9.95 billion state bond will go toward its construction. Nearly all counties operate bus lines, and many cities operate their own bus lines as well. Intercity bus travel is provided by Greyhound and Amtrak Thruway Coach. - sedu flat iron
stifan's picture
According to me it is very necessary and i am asking those who are breaking the constitutional rule,they have to obey the rule and regulation of their nation.More over there are so many DUI checkpoints around California now. That's the whole idea of check points. Stifan - Blogs about airsoft guns
Gary's picture
Car seize is not the perfect punishment on that,this may help to the police society for extra benefit but many of the drivers who lost their cars at these checkpoints were illegal , based on the drivers and police.Some of the drivers have drunk and they drive ,They rarely challenge the seizures and after that by the cash to recover their cars, and vehicles. Gary - writes about Bali villa for rent
globleinfosoll's picture
you are now fined and until the vehicle is registered, but first a licensed driver who first purchases insurance, and brings any non legal tag or the fine for letting insurance lap, you will not receive the vehicle. The tow company is not liable to keep the car for the mandatory 30 days as is done here. Home and garden
Rity's picture
Actually,the Investigative Reporting Program’s Analysis(IRPA) did not find evidence that police departments to set up checkpoints for the specific target.But police department have to take the necessary steps against the people those who are breaking the rule of constitution and the police department have to avoid the personal benefit at the time of duty. Rity - blogs about Funeral Homes In Texas
Simtwa's picture
Driving license is necessary for each and every person those are riding the vehicles.But people are generally avoiding the rule of constitution ,some of the drivers have drunk while driving and they are creating collision.A number of factors contribute to the risk of collision such as vehicle design, speed of operation, road design, and driver impairment. Simtwa - writes about G2 Accessories
Aqua's picture
A traffic police play the vital rule at the road but collision occurs when a road vehicle collides with another vehicle, pedestrian, animal, road debris, or other geographical or architectural obstacle.where as some of the person are breaking the constitutional rule such as wearing seat belt,riding in left side of the road,keeping documents and operation in average speed.if all the people stay with rules then no problem will occur in the road. Aqua - interest in Personal Mastery
stifan's picture
It is very nice article and adding some valuable information by the different user,it will give some valuable information to each visitor those are commenting towards this article .Road safety is very necessary thing and that is converted to the police department directly. Stifan - writes about Auto Accident Lawyer
Simtwa's picture
Police are the person empower to enforce the law,protect property and reduces the crime in society.If they will help to break the constitutional rule then who will responsible for that?Actually Law enforcement constitutes only part of police activity.It is totally reflecting to the people of society. Simtwa - interested in Fat Burning Furnace
Dery's picture
Car seizing is not the perfect punishment to the nonsense people those who are manually doing the nuisance activity and not obeying the rule and regulation of their constitution.The rule and regulation should be apply to all not only criminals but also to police department. Dery - writes about web design company
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bart770's picture
On September 15 2010 I was returning home when I went through a checkpoint. The person driving my car was a friend of the family. I had no reason to suspect he had a suspended license, he had told me he had a license, showed me what a appeared to be a license. Later the officer that impounded my car for 30 days told me that the California ID looks just like a license. The driver was sober, I was sober and the police officer sheepishly told me he was impounding my car for 3 days, that turned out to be a lie. Tomorrow I go to court for letting someone drive my car without a license, the ticket was written by the officer who told me how easy it is to be fooled by the California ID. I have forfeited my car at the cost of $570.00, the 30 day impound would have been $2000.00 and if I didn't have the cash the juice would have kept running. I am a school teacher, I have to tell children why they should trust the police and why they should be good citizens. These days I am finding that to be an difficult job.
Yeng21's picture
These checkpoints should be acclimated mainly to bolt bashed drivers or drivers on drugs not to annoy and accomplish activity harder for boyhood motorists. Sobriety checkpoints are set up to try and accomplish abiding they aces in locations area they're traveling to get bashed drivers.
deathbylapdance's picture
There are a few items I would like to address with the article on impounded vehicles and Hispanics: First, over all a good well written article. Overtime should not be used for these checkpoints, EVER. If I was a Hispanic and got pulled over, I would tell the officer I was Vietnamese or French and they would just let me go. Overall, police and wanna be police are stupid and won't notice. The part that eats at me is that all revenue that goes to any govt. agency should be itemized in ALL cases. Such as our garbage/recycling in which about 50% goes to the local govts. but we are never informed of this. I pay over $90/mo for 1 30 gallon can per week of pickup. What? This cannot be reasonable under any circumstance. There should be a law written to inform and require a vote to increase any and all money that goes towards any type of tax.
hapsmo's picture
The last I checked if you are not a citizen you do not have rights, therefore illegal immigrants DO NOT have the right to drive without a license.
jskdn2's picture
Why is this story that was written back in February being republished under today's date? It's not good journalism. First of all the Oregon case was very different. This is from the Miranda v CITY OF CORNELIUS opinion : "We consider a constitutional challenge to the impoundment of a vehicle from the owner' driveway after a police officer observed the husband teaching his unlicensed wife how to drive. …On April 10, 2003, Mrs. Miranda slowly drove the Ford Aerostar van of her husband, Mr. Miranda, around the neighborhood as her husband taught her how to drive. Although Mr. Miranda is a licensed and insured driver with valid registration of the vehicle, Mrs. Miranda did not have a driver's license." This was a ridiculous overreach by the cops, and the situation is quite unlike the situations encountered most frequently during checkpoints. That said, I'm against law enforcement done for monetary purposes. Where there is a licensed owner of an insured car other than the driver stopped that is either intoxicated or unlicensed, they should be allowed come and pickup the car in lieu of having it impounded, providing they act promptly. However they should also have to appear in court regarding the violations of the driver of the vehicle. And their insurance companies should also be notified. Furthermore impounds yards shouldn't be kicking-back to the police and they should be put out to bid based upon the lowest rates. Drivers should pay for the actual costs of the police work required but the police should not have an interest in whether a car is impounded or not. But it still seems like Ryan Gabrielson, like Gil Cedillo, has an agenda regarding the enabling of illegal immigration. This represents a real corruption of journalism that is unfortunately all too common around this issue.
tufty's picture
If drivers know they are below the limit then they have nothing to worry about but the authorities need revenue and this is an area where it's easy pickings.
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