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Critics say DUI checkpoints target immigrants

December 23, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
Two local advocate groups for undocumented immigrants have publicly accused the Los Angeles Police Department and the Los Angeles County Sherriff's Department of using DUI checkpoints to legally seize thousands of cars. The Southern California Immigration Coalition and the South Central Neighborhood Council claim DUI checkpoints are strategically placed in and around Hispanic communities as a trap to catch unlicensed and undocumented drivers.

These groups say the state of California made $40 million in profit in 2009 from these checkpoints.

"In one impound, four cars were impounded because of drunk driving and 60 cars were impounded because of a lack of a license," said Julia Wallace of the South Central Neighborhood Council. "It's obvious to us that for one, these things are targeting working class people, undocumented immigrants, that do not have a license but are really just abiding the law otherwise and are not drunk."

However, sheriff's department officials deny that claim.

"DUI checkpoints are used to prevent people from driving under the influence of alcohol," the department said in a statement. "It is to get people off the street -- out from behind the wheel of a car so people do not suffer tragic and totally unnecessary injuries that many times lead to death. DUI checkpoints historically have proven to be a successful tool in combating drunk drivers."

A spokesman for the LAPD's union said the claim that the state profitted from the checkpoints is "absurd" and not supported by facts.

"The truth is that checkpoints cost money and local law enforcement, such as the ones operated by the LAPD, are fortunate to receive funding for the DUI checkpoints from the California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS)," Eric Rose told Eyewitness News.

He says the checkpoints operate in accordance with guildlines mandated by the Supreme Court's ruling in "Ingersol vs. Palmer."

The two groups want the city of Los Angeles to adopt a policy similar to the policy in Oakland, where undocumented or unlicensed drivers are allowed to pull over and wait for a licensed driver to come and get their vehicle rather than have their vehicle impounded.


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