The San Gabriel Valley Tribune reports legislation aimed at curbing police abuse of sobriety checkpoints was set for a vote on May 17, 2011 in the state Assembly’s Appropriations Committee. The bill sets specific procedures for police to follow when they conduct drunken driver checkpoints. As a response to allegations law enforcement agencies use checkpoints to seize vehicles for minor traffic infractions and generate revenue rather than target drunken drivers. Assembly Bill 1389, by Santa Rosa Democrat Michael Allen, is expected to pass out of committee and head to a vote on the Assembly floor later this year.
The bill would require police:
· Establish a neutral formula for inspecting motorists at checkpoints or inspect everyone;
· Use proper lights and warning signs;
· Select a location with a high number of drunken driver arrests or alcohol-related crashes;
· Perform the checkpoint after dusk or at a time that is beneficial to deterring drunken drivers;
· Notify the public of the checkpoint and its location 48 hours in advance;
· Refrain from impounding the vehicles of unlicensed drivers if they can be safely parked or removed by a licensed driver.
Most of the bill’s guidelines have already been stipulated by state and federal court rulings. But some law enforcement agencies have interpreted these as suggestions and instead have set their own policies. In 2009, police impounded more than 24,000 vehicles at checkpoints, roughly seven times more than the 3,200 drunken driving arrests they made at roadway operations, according to the bill. Many people who have their cars impounded are undocumented immigrants who can’t obtain a California driver’s license, and unlike drunken drivers, who can get their cars back when they sober up, police often impose a mandatory 30-day impound on vehicles that were driven by unlicensed drivers.”A.B. 1389 builds on a growing consensus across the state of how DUI checkpoints need to be conducted to really target drunken drivers and stop disrupting local economies,” said Isaac Menashe, a policy analyst for the California Immigrant Policy Center. So far, the bill seems to have the support of both Republicans and Democrats. It passed the Assembly Transportation Committee on May 2 in a 11-3 vote that drew support from both sides of the aisle.
If you are facing a Santa Barbara DUI contact Kenneth M. Hallum. Know your rights, options, and defenses.