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DUI checkpoints: Profit over practicality?

July 5, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
Are cars being unfairly impounded at checkpoints for offenses having nothing to do with driving under the influence? There were strong arguments Tuesday for and against a bill that would cut down on vehicle seizures.

One Southern California lawmaker feels that DUI checkpoints unfairly target undocumented immigrants. One California family feels taking away the cars of unlicensed drivers is a matter of public safety.

At a Senate Public Safety Committee meeting Tuesday, Ellen Rosenberg of Westlake Village held a picture of her son, Drew, who was killed by an unlicensed driver last year. She was there to urge a vote against a bill that would stop law enforcement from impounding the cars of unlicensed drivers, mostly illegal immigrants, at DUI checkpoints.

Police would still be able to impound the cars of drunk drivers and vehicles suspected of being involved in a crime.

"How could I not be furious at the double-speak I'm hearing here? We're going to say you're above the law because you can't get a license?" said Roseberg.

State Assemblyman Gil Cedillo (D-Los Angeles) says cities throughout California have been abusing DUI checkpoints, using them to impound the cars unlicensed drivers to collect hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars in impound fees to fill up local coffers.

Police seize roughly six times more cars from sober, unlicensed drivers than drunken drivers and the roadway operations are often not near drinking establishments or at times when they close.

"Saturday mornings. Sunday mornings. On corridors when people go to work. Outside churches. Schools. Why? Because that's where you'll find unlicensed motorists, immigrant motorists who cannot get a license," said Cedillo.

Cedillo called the Rosenberg accident a tragedy, but also points to the tragedies of undocumented immigrants who were killed or victims of crime as a result of walking instead of driving.

Rosenberg became furious at the lawmaker for using of her name to support his bill.

The bill passed and now heads to the Appropriations Committee next. A 2000 study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that when compared to licensed drivers, unlicensed drivers were nearly five times more likely to be involved in fatal crashes.

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