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Escondido May Face Class-Action Lawsuit Over Checkpoints

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Aired 1/18/11

Amid ongoing controversy over its driver's license checkpoints, an Escondido man is suing the city, saying the stops violate state law.

One of the main streets in Escondido where police set up driver's license checkpoints a couple of times a month.
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Above: One of the main streets in Escondido where police set up driver's license checkpoints a couple of times a month.

— In 2009, Rich Dudka went through one of the city's checkpoints, and his truck was impounded. Since he could not afford the impound fees, his truck was eventually sold. Dudka sued the city last August, and now, he's exploring the possibility of a class-action lawsuit, on behalf of all the people whose cars were impounded over the last six years.

Escondido Police Chief Jim Maher defends the checkpoints. But when asked about them a few months ago, Maher acknowledged that a lawsuit was likely.

"Every single car that approaches is just asked to show a driver's license," said Maher. "We're modifying that process and we haven't settled on a final process because the ACLU threatened to sue us. So we may have to check for other things besides just a driver's license."

One of the reasons the checkpoints have been so controversial is because they've led to an increase in deportations of undocumented immigrants who aren't, by law, allowed to get a driver's license.

Maher says the uproar over the checkpoints is not justified.

"It's wrong to not try to use every available legal tool to remove criminals," says Maher. "If you lived with a gang member, child molester, drug dealer next door, that the police could go and have deported, and we refused to do that--then I would be more upset."

Carlos Batara is a lawyer working in Escondido. He says the checkpoints have serious implications for the community, but whether the practice is illegal is something that would need to be decided by the courts.

"In my mind, so many of these measures violate constitutional concerns, like due process, but I'm not going to be the final judge of that," says Batara. "Ultimately, that issue needs to be taken up by the higher courts."

There's no telling yet whether Dudka's lawsuit will reach a class-auction status, and what implications, if any, it would have on the six year-old checkpoints practice.

Comments

Avatar for user 'Mike808'

Mike808 | January 18, 2011 at 6:54 a.m. ― 3 years, 6 months ago

I don't feel sorry for him or anyone else that's not following the law.
You get what you deserve. How hard is it to follow the rules? Rules and laws are designed for public safety. Hypothetically let's say Rich Dudka is driving with no license, no insurance and he smashes into your car. Obviously he doesn't have any money so you'll be paying for everything. Yet another reason why insurance premiums are so high. Sure you can take him to court, but he's got no money. Useless.
So my bottom line is that we have too many freedoms that people take advantage of or don't fully appreciate. Follow the law. Really, how hard is it to get a drivers license?
You could be in another country where you wouldn't even get to argue your point and then get thrown in jail where they don't have humanitarian laws. I'm ranting now.

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | January 18, 2011 at 10:34 a.m. ― 3 years, 6 months ago

"It's wrong to not try to use every available legal tool to remove criminals," says Maher. "If you lived with a gang member, child molester, drug dealer next door, that the police could go and have deported, and we refused to do that--then I would be more upset."

Oh, so there's no domestic, native-born gang members, child molestors, drug dealers, or . . . bomb-makers, Maher??? Kinda saya something about you, doesn't it?

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Avatar for user 'Pottyba'

Pottyba | January 18, 2011 at 1:54 p.m. ― 3 years, 6 months ago

Mike808 said it best! Couldn't have said it any better!

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Avatar for user 'Pottyba'

Pottyba | January 18, 2011 at 1:59 p.m. ― 3 years, 6 months ago

Also wanted to add, that I have actually been hit by one person who was an illegal immigrant, and one who had a suspended license. Cops didn't do anything in both instances. My insurance had to pay up. Not theirs. My roommate also was hit by an illegal immigrant who ran s top sign & t-boned her car. Her car was totaled & she ended up in the hospital. Cops also didn't do anything her case. This whole think is so sad. What part of breaking the law don't you understand?

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Avatar for user 'Sonnygirl'

Sonnygirl | January 18, 2011 at 2:38 p.m. ― 3 years, 6 months ago

I agree with Mike808 and empathize with pottyba as I too was forced to pay and deal with an illegal immigrant who totaled my vehicle. And yes, they did not have insurance. In my opinion, the ACLU is a despicable organization that thrives on chaos by forcing the American people to pay for everyone else looking for a free ride. The opportunity to uplift your life is out there, some are just too lazy to work to attain it. It is hard work. I did it. Just take a look at this loser Dudka. I guess he is special and does not believe the laws apply to him either, otherwise he would not have lost his vehicle. What, no license or insurance? So, what does he do? He gets even and sues even though he is the cause of his own problems. Blame someone else. All he wants is an easy ride. His friends and family should be ashamed of him. I am.

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Avatar for user 'jaygo'

jaygo | January 18, 2011 at 9:13 p.m. ― 3 years, 6 months ago

The problem is the 4th amendment is being stomped on, just like at the airports. This is a ongoing battle with the PIGS who are subverting our American ways. If you're looking for drunks, look for drunks. The poor always have to pay more because they aren't able to pay to begin with. The city is only concerned with taking money from the lower socio-economic strata. If he had the money, he would have paid the damned fine. But these PIGS don't care, they add more money on and then sell the very thing he needs to make money. They just see us as cash cows for the squeezin' and they use the cops as their collection thugs.

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Avatar for user 'williamfrantz'

williamfrantz | January 18, 2011 at 9:29 p.m. ― 3 years, 6 months ago

"undocumented immigrants who aren't, by law, allowed to get a driver's license."

Not true. They can get an international driver's license or a license from their home country. Legally, that is what they are supposed to do. They can't get a California license, nor do they have to. I can drive in Canada and Mexico using my CA license. What's their problem? Being an illegal alien is not an excuse to break more laws.

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Avatar for user 'hthr'

hthr | February 20, 2011 at 1:20 a.m. ― 3 years, 5 months ago

Can I sue over the half hour I was trapped in a checkpoint line because they set it up at the exit to the school where I had an art show until midnight?

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