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Border & Immigration

DUI Checkpoints In California May Soon Be Regulated

One of the streets in downtown Escondido where police carry out their controversial DUI and "traffic safety" checkpoints.
Ruxandra Guidi
One of the streets in downtown Escondido where police carry out their controversial DUI and "traffic safety" checkpoints.
DUI Checkpoints In California May Soon Be Regulated
Some California cities have been criticized for profiting from DUI checkpoints that target undocumented immigrants by impounding their vehicles.

Critics of Assembly Bill 1389, like Santa Rosa Democrat Michael Allen, say the current law allows sobriety checkpoints to generate revenues for cities at the expense of undocumented immigrants who aren't allowed to get drivers' licenses.

The California Senate has voted to restrict cities' ability to confiscate cars and charge high towing and impound fees.

The bill was designed in response to the Southern California city of Bell, which filled its city coffers with high impound fees from DUI checkpoints. The city of Escondido has also been criticized for impounding the cars of drivers without licenses, notably undocumented immigrants.

Escondido police Chief Jim Maher, defended the practice

"The checkpoints were started before this became an issue with the illegal immigrant activists," Maher said. "We have done these since the '80s. We have done drivers' license checkpoints - which we now call 'traffic safety checkpoints' - since 2004. Both are totally unrelated to immigration."

Escondido has one of the highest ratios of impounds-to-arrests in California. Police there impound 11 cars for every one DUI arrest.