Will Fullerton Cash in on DUI Checkpoints?


California Watch released a report last week suggesting that DUI checkpoints in many California cities are focused on revenue generation via vehicle impounds rather than stopping drunk drivers. OC Register data shows that checkpoints in some OC cities stop relatively few drunk drivers, but do cash in on massive impound fees through revenue-sharing agreements with local impound yards. Most of the impounds come from unlicensed drivers, not DUI arrests.

We couldn’t help but notice that Fullerton PD is ready to pitch the creation of it’s own impound yard to the city council in the coming weeks. Revenue generation is the motive.

Papers Please

Coincidentally, the city has planned six DUI checkpoints in Fullerton through the end of summer.

So what’s the problem?

First, the report states that many cities are ignoring case law that would prevent them from making many of the current non-DUI related impounds. The article quotes Fullerton attorney Martin J. Mayer of the law firm Jones & Mayer, who has warned law enforcement agencies statewide that this could become a big legal problem.

Second, many contend that DUI checkpoints are a violation of the fourth amendment – the right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure. Checkpoints stop dozens of innocent drivers in order to catch a single DUI offender. Unfortunately courts have ruled that protecting citizens from drunk drivers gives the state a compelling interest to ignore the 4th amendment.

But what happens when the courts find out that DUI checkpoints aren’t really about stopping drunk drivers, but rather impounding vehicles for cash?

Each thirty day impound generates $1,000 to $4,000 in tow and storage charges

It will be interesting to see how this plays out in Fullerton. The curious timing of the California Watch story, Fullerton PD’s impound lot proposal and the ramped-up DUI checkpoints does make one wonder if there is more to this story.

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  1. #1 by Follow the Money on February 24, 2010

    $4,000 for a 30-day impound? Cha-ching!

  2. #5 by Anonymous on February 24, 2010

    But the department needs the money to pay for extra officers to catch drivers who drink too much in Fullerton’s bars.

    • #6 by Travis on February 25, 2010

      Subverting the purpose of DUI checkpoints is not the answer. If they need more money than they should ask for it or reprioritize.

  3. #7 by Johnny Donut on February 24, 2010

    Let me explain it real simple: Cops are setting up DUI checkpoints like crazy, but they really only want to check everyone’s license.

    Arresting a drunk is a pain in the ass, but taking a car away from an unlicensed driver is easy and yields a lot of dough for the city.

    So… “papers please” is right!

  4. #8 by friendofmine on February 24, 2010

    omg im shocked this site put up somethin worth while. Im starting to get worried, hasn/t it been like 2 days since tony b has harrassed and innocent women?

  5. #9 by Good Citizen on February 24, 2010

    I would’t mind stopping for a license check every day if it keeps one drunk off the road.

    I also get a warm fuzzy feeling when they check my bag at Walmart. Safety over freedom, I always say.

  6. #10 by Greg on February 24, 2010

    I hate drunk drivers and I hate abuses of government. I used to get pulled over every night by Placentia, Anaheim, Fullerton, or Buena Park police officers looking for drunks at 2AM. Unfortunately for me, that’s when I got off work and the combinations of the vehicle I was driving (a beat up old truck with bumper stickers) and my personal appearance (very long hair – Willy Nelson would have been proud) made me an easy target. I know I wasn’t swerving every night for 3 years so clearly they were profiling and fishing. The checkpoints keep the fishing confined to a specific area which means fewer officers patrolling the rest of the city or it means overtime which we cannot afford.
    When you are stopped by a police officer, they have the authority to have you step out of the car “for their safety as well as yours”. Then they have the authority to search you “for their safety as well as yours”. They also have the authority to search the immediate area that you were just sitting in. Which means if you are driving a small car, they’ll search just about all of it. Is that right? Is that keeping with the spirit of the constitution or even the letter of the law??? So, the next time you and the wife are driving by one of these remember that both of you might be asked to step out of the car and you know what follows. Cops have a tough job to do, but I have to agree that it would be more productive for patrol officers to snag drivers leaving bars. Certainly they would catch more DUIs than a single checkpoint. The only problem is that Fullerton has more bars than cops on patrol at any given hour.

  7. #11 by Chris Thompson on February 24, 2010

    Good Citizen’s lack of understanding of freedom is and excellent example of the biggest problem with our country. Why not simply schedule random and periodic searches of our homes Good Citizen? We’d catch lots of bad guys that way.

  8. #12 by van get it da artiste on February 24, 2010

    How does the FPD expect most people to pay their fines when we are in a Greater Depression? Most recent research shows the optimistic “W” inflation curve is turning into a “y” curve.

  9. #13 by 737-700 on February 24, 2010

    The way I see it, we would need LESS police and fire if people weren’t so stupid. Therefore, I have no problem with severe penalties for stupid behavior (i.e. DUI’s).

    I think the argument could be made that government *enables* stupid behavior because the penalties aren’t stiff enough. Most people can handle the cost of a speeding ticket with one paycheck. Once it’s paid, it’s easy to forget about. And the reason we need more and more police (and in some cases, more fire) is because the penalties for stupid behavior are affordable. Yes, affordable.

    Instead of sending people to prison or taking their money, perhaps the community service aspect should be explored a bit further.

    Have you ever seen the bathrooms at your kids’ elementary schools? They’re disgusting. The desks are broken, classrooms need paint. What about the graffiti around town? Why on earth are local governments PAYING people to remove it when people sentenced to community service could be doing that? Of course, this work wouldn’t be appropriate for all offenders, but you get my point.

    I think it would wake people up if their sentence was community service EVERY WEEKEND for the next year or two. Their stupid behavior won’t change unless the consequences act as a constant reminder over a long period of time.

    Of course, this will never happen. The unions will cry foul over their public works jobs being replaced and the government loves all the revenue it can get.

    • #14 by Fredrick Grecco on February 24, 2010

      I like your idea 737-700, punishment is an important part of learning lessons if you have broken a law especially for stupid people (which is the majority of Americans).

  10. #15 by For What It's Worth on February 24, 2010

    Just a heads up — I recall reading an article in the paper that legally the police must post a warning on the road that a checkpoint is ahead, and they’re prohibited from pursuing anyone who decides to make a U-turn to avoid it.

  11. #16 by calcheckpoint on March 26, 2010

    “We should never drink and drive, but I still like to know where checkpoints will be in Orange County, San Diego, and LA. I may use calcheckpoint (www.twitter.com/calcheckpoint) to find out where they are.”

  12. #17 by calcheckpoint on October 22, 2010

    “We should never drink and drive, but I still like to know where checkpoints
    will be in Orange County, San Diego, and LA. I may use calcheckpoint
    (www.twitter.com/calcheckpoint) to find out where they are.”

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