Pacifica DUI checkpoint


Posted by on Fri, August 27, 2010

I want to start by saying that I think DUI checkpoints are great. They remove dangerous elements from our roadways. What I didn’t like today was being asked to show my drivers license at one tonight.

Under normal circumstances if I commit an infraction and get pulled over I fully understand why I would have to show my papers to an officer in the course of being ticketed. Tonight I was asked to show my papers just because I was on the road. It irked me. I wanted to know if this was legal and from what I have gathered I suppose it is.

What I did find out that really set me off is that the DUI check point maybe isn’t just a DUI checkpoint at all but a snare for illegal immigrants and others that do not have a drivers license.

I read that the ratio of impoundments to driving under the influence arrests was high around the Bay Area in 2009: In Daly City, there were 39.5 impoundments for every D.U.I. arrest; in San Rafael, 18.6; and in San Pablo, 9. California law requires towing companies to hold them for 30 days. That can mean storage fees and fines that run from $1,000 to $4,000, municipal finance records show.

I understand that unlicensed drivers can be a threat but I also feel that the consequences of losing your vehicle to a impound for a minimum for 30 days is a absolute travesty when drunk drivers can usually pick up their cars the next day. Something to think about.

Link to a NY times article discussing the issue.

I want to start by saying DUI checkpoints are one more example of the government overstepping their authority. How can you favor one form of harassment but against another?  Why is it okay that I am detained from lawful and private activities just because there MIGHT be a drunk driver on the road.  I say no interrogation without cause!

“Why is it okay that I am detained from lawful and private activities just because there MIGHT be a drunk driver on the road”

Consider that driving on a public road is probably not regarded by law and enforcement as a private activity.

The concept of DUI checkpoints doesn’t bother me or the original writer here apparently, but there are issues with law enforcement attempting to compel the forfeiture of identity, documentation, and/or ones vehicle, when its done in an absence of probable cause.

This is basically a 4th amendment issue, its been pretty heavily litigated (what hasn’t?), and AFAIK the current state of CA law isn’t always observed by police executing DUI checkpoints.

Local laws that may be in place that aren’t in complete concordance with state law.  I don’t know if San Mateo has any such issues or not.

But basically, police can ask you anything they want to.  If you’re not under investigation (“I stopped you because…” or in this case “I’m detaining you for further investigation because…”), you’re not compelled to answer.

Anyone more familiar with county codes know what the specifics are for us, here?

>>I wanted to know if this was legal and from what I have gathered I suppose it is.

It is VERY legal. In fact, the term for those checkpoints are becoming more commonly known as “driver’s license checkpoints”. For every 1 DUI cited at the checkpoints there are roughly 30-60 people cited for driving without a license. A new flavor of traffic fatalities has been on the rise, as 20% of all traffic fatalities in California involve an unlicensed driver.

Convenient to throw out the “illegal immigrant” card. If they don’t have a license that add that to the crimes they are perpetrating.

Comment 4
Thu, September 9, 2010 8:17pm
Lee McKusick
All my comments

You have encountered a fast growing legal strategy. A series of initiatives in law enforcement over the last 30 years have resulted in cities and states discovering clever ways of making lots of money for the city-towtruck-insurancecompany-defenselawyer-policeofficer-DMV-system while claiming to the public that they are improving public safety.

Criminalization of residents for financial gain based on legal technicalities. Without the expense of courts or jails.

In the 80’s or the 90’s crack cocaine was the first drug crime with truly draconian penalties. The result was a great boon of “law enforcement”.
See this graph here:

The problem with this criminalization project was in the long run the prisons cost a lot. And it is very scary to let all those deeply embittered middle age divorced broke and disenfranchised former voters out of jail.

To skip the prisons and get more money with lower prosecution costs the governments have created a group of laws that are draconian punishments and impossible to contest in court. These laws are supposed to work by “deterrence”. These laws are widely announced and there is tremendous public support for punishing all the small groups of offenders.

These laws include “Zero Tolerance” alcohol laws for teen age youth, “evading a peace officer”, “child safety”, “driving without a license”, “driving without insurance”, and “smoking”.

Read the California Driver Handbook and particularly note the prominent advertisements and prominent descriptions of the draconian punishments being offered.

So, equipped with all these little legal surprises, cities can sponsor, announce and then run a traffic stop.

The enforcement authorities trigger legal mousetraps on 20 or 30 people in an evening. Figure as a rule of thumb, $1000 apiece, 8 or 9 cars forfeited, 9 or 10 people paying an extra $100 per month on their car insurance for the next 5 years, two or three hard working immigrant families destroyed, 1 high school kid getting his license suspended and paying $4000 in tangential fees. And the DUI arrests?

The TV news on the recently ended Labor Day Weekend features traffic checkpoint video and claims for dozens of DUI arrests statewide.

What is going on is a public deterrence message seen by millions of Californians. The side effect of deterrence is 20 or 30 people actually are punished with the draconian punishment. They either pay or protest and pay or hire a defence attorney and pay. These “status offences” essentially can not be challenged in court or they are DMV administrator actions that can not even be reviewed by a qualified legal judge. The side effect is where the revenue and money is: A small group of citizens and residents receive the draconian punishment. They get their goodwill and potential status as citizens destroyed, or they get deported, and they all get at least $1000 in fines, fees and insurance premium increases.

And best of all: no need to send anybody to the overcrowded prison system.