The sanction of California’s newest law regarding the impounding of vehicles at sobriety checkpoints has made an impression on both civilians and law enforcement.
Effective Jan.1, the police are no longer able to tow a vehicle at a DUI (driving under the influence) checkpoint if the driver’s only offense is that he or she is unlicensed (no license or license is invalid – suspended, revoked or expired).
This law was endorsed by California state Sen. Gil Cedillo, D- Los Angeles, an avid supporter of immigration rights; and according to reports, it was primarily because DUI checkpoints inadvertently yet apparently set up traps for unlicensed drivers, where illegal immigrants seemed to be primary targets, and the towing of vehicles resulted in a relatively generous amount of income for cities.
“People are still going to be stopped for driving without a license at a checkpoint and show up in court and answer why they are driving a car. Just for the checkpoint, we can’t take the car,” said Sgt. Randy Latimer of the Oxnard Police Department.
“However, at the end of the checkpoint, if no one (registered owner or licensed driver) picks it up, we will tow it. Also, on the street, if an officer stops an unlicensed driver, the car will be impounded for 30 days,” he added.
Collectivo Todo Poder al Pueblo (Power to the People Collective) is an Oxnard-based organization that is dedicated to migrant justice in Ventura County, and actively protests at checkpoints.
“Checkpoints were traps and were being set up in heavily residential areas to apprehend citizens who lack papers. If you look at numbers of DUI suspects, they were very low, and they were apprehending dozens of unlicensed drivers and holding their cars for ransom,” said Elliott Gabriel, a spokesperson for Todo Poder.
“The tow truck companies are making money and the police are paid overtime by grants. It’s a racket benefiting at the expense of the most vulnerable section of the community,” Gabriel said.
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