Forget the words behind the mission statement of the police in California. Vehicle checkpoints to catch DUI offenders has turned into a mass of impounds for unlicensed drivers. Who profits? You guessed it.
"In the course of its examination, the Investigative Reporting Program reviewed hundreds of pages of city financial records and police reports, and analyzed data documenting the results from every checkpoint that received state funding during the past two years. Among the findings: Sobriety checkpoints frequently screen traffic within, or near, Hispanic neighborhoods. Cities where Hispanics represent a majority of the population are seizing cars at three times the rate of cities with small minority populations. In South Gate, a Los Angeles County city where Hispanics make up 92 percent of the population, police confiscated an average of 86 vehicles per operation last fiscal year. The seizures appear to defy a 2005 federal appellate court ruling that determined police cannot impound cars solely because the driver is unlicensed. In fact, police across the state have ratcheted up vehicle seizures. Last year, officers impounded more than 24,000 cars and trucks at checkpoints. That total is roughly seven times higher than the 3,200 drunken driving arrests at roadway operations. The percentage of vehicle seizures has increased 53 percent statewide compared to 2007."
Yes, those unlicensed drivers, many of them immigrants (remember that in many states, including California, immigrants cannot obtain a driver's license), are far more dangerous to other drivers than those pesky drunk drivers. Let's arrest the drunks (who are often repeat offenders) but let them retain their cars while we impound the vehicles of those who are unlicensed yet otherwise sober.