Advertisement
Find a Car
Go!

CA Sobriety Checkpoints Snare Illegals, Pad Tow Companies?

Follow Bengt

policeman reaching into car

policeman reaching into car

Enlarge Photo

In California, sobriety checkpoints intended to stop drunk drivers are far more often cracking down on unlicensed drivers and particularly illegal immigrants—leading many to wonder about the legality of the checkpoints themselves, and their placement.

Sobriety checkpoints are big income generators in California, and the officials have called 2010 "the year of the checkpoint."

According to research done through the University of California, Berkeley, vehicle impoundments alone at sobriety checkpoints generated about $40 million in revenue, though towing fees and police fines, the New York Times reports.

The figures aren't as crazy as they seem when you factor in that over the past fiscal year $30 million will have been paid out in overtime to officers working those checkpoints and crackdowns. That goes without adding up administration and court costs.

The tow companies are the ones that benefit most from the practice. About two thirds of the vehicles impounded are never claimed and get sold, with the proceeds mostly going to them.

Towing companies or municipalities can hold the vehicles for up to 30 days, with fines and "storage fees" (not a surprise for anyone who's ever seen a vehicle towed for street cleaning or whatnot) running up to $4,000, the Times reports, while drunk drivers can typically get their vehicle back the next business day with less hassle.

There's no question that sobriety checkpoints reduce crashes. For instance, a 1995 study of a Tennessee program found that fatal crashes fell 20 percent during a 21-month enforcement period. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, license-related impoundments have also resulted in a reduction in both crashes and repeat offenders.

Hit-and-run drivers are often unlicensed, disproportionately contributing to higher insurance costs for properly licensed motorists.

'How Drunk Am I?' iPhone app

'How Drunk Am I?' iPhone app

For fiscal year 2009, about 24,000 vehicles were seized at sobriety checkpoints, mainly from unlicensed drivers. Two years earlier, only 15,700 were seized. And overall, in some areas, there are nearly 40 impoundments for every DUI.

The NYT points out that there are conflicting federal court rulings on whether the impoundments for drivers lacking a license are legal. San Francisco recently changed its policy to allow illegal drivers 20 minutes to find a legal driver for their vehicle.

The implementation and constitutionality of sobriety checkpoints does remain very different on a state-by-state basis; the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has this useful guide on where they're allowed.

So if checkpoints more often catch unlicensed drivers than drunk drivers, it this a good use of limited public funds—and is the practice itself legal? Let us know what you think.

[New York Times]

Advertisement
 
Follow Us

 

Have an opinion?

  • Posting indicates you have read this site's Privacy Policy and Terms of Use
  • Notify me when there are more comments
Comments (8)
  1. busting illegals at a sobriety checkpoint is just an unintended consequence. These checkpoints serve a good purpose. They need to support themselves, just like any other activity. If the liberal Democrat anti-illegal brigades want to help their brethren, then they should obtain a list of all the drivers arrested at these checkpoints- I believe the lists are public records- and start contacting the relatives to go get their towed vehicles. Quit wasting time protesting outside of sheriff's offices. do something constructive instead. I don't fear the checkpoints. I don't drink, smoke, or use illegal drugs.
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

  2. You should not be able to pull over anyone over for drunk driving without a reason for their driving or problem with their auto lights, etc. If the state says it will be pulling over people for their ID and citizenship check...let them state the reason and have the laws to support their efforts.,
    Sobriety checks are about revenue just like photo radar is about revenue. Reduce the penalty for these of make all the fines go to school taxes and you will find all that activity will cease.
    As far as catching illegals, anything you do to nag criminals, then lets do it.........starting at the borders....
    they need to be checking their citizenship at schools, hospitals, and any other public facility............not only at traffic stops.
    Sobriety checks are just a means to harass the citizens while the big crimes and murders go unabated.
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

  3. The purpose is good and i think that the real reason is that california has a serious problem with gang members. over 100.000 members only in LA area. If it helps remove unuseful people off the street, it's a good program.
    End the Fed
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

  4. These check points are ridiculous, they are a waste of time and not to metion cruel. The police department needs to stop using so much man power on these check points. They are just getting lazy, instead of patroling the city and ensuring safety they are all posted at one place eating up overtime that is payed by tax payers.
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

  5. I was stopped at a dui checkpoint last night..I had not been drinking as i DONT drink alcohol whatsoever..My drivers license had recently expired due to just date expiration..I am 35 and have been driving since i was 15 with no reckless problems..California now has shut the dmv down to 4 days a week with an average wait time of 2-3 hours after receiving a number before you get to talk to someone.. My vehicle was impounded and i was told a cab was being called for me.. that cab charged me $75 to take me 7 miles to my home i was told because was involved with police checkpoint..granted all i had was $75 cash in my pocket and had to be dropped off about a mile from home cause thats all i could afford..I walked the rest of the way...My wife took me to the fresno police department headquarters where i had to pay $294 to get a release, then i went to where the vehicle was impounded and had to pay $245 to get it out..What a F#CKING B#llshit racket this is!!!!!!! How was I a danger to society??? please explain this...i have all current insurance and registration and work hard for my money and am sick of local and state authorities trying to make up for their "budget crisis" by taking it away from their harmless citizens
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

  6. We should never drink and drive, but I still like to know where checkpoints
    will be in Orange County, San Diego, and LA. I may use calcheckpoint
    (www.twitter.com/calcheckpoint) to find out where they are.
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

  7. just don't drink and drive... it's better to avoid the offense rather than getting out of it. it's for your own good, AND OTHERS TOO!
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

  8. These checkpoints are illegal. California law states that a driver can't be stopped just to see if they have a license. This is just a revenue game; and we are letting them win. Stand up for your rights and refuse to show your drivers license.
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

 

Have an opinion? Join the conversation!

Advertisement
Try My Showroom
Save cars, write notes, and comparison shop with hi-res photos.
Add your first car
Advertisement
Take Us With You!
   
Advertisement

 
© 2014 The Car Connection. All Rights Reserved. The Car Connection is published by High Gear Media. Stock photography by izmo, Inc. Send us feedback.