A Year Without DUI Checkpoints

Last year this blog exposed the DUI/drivers license checkpoint con that was being operated by the Fullerton PD, here. The checkpoints allowed the PD to stop and interrogate hundreds of innocent drivers while boosting their own overtime pay, sucking up impound fees and filling the pockets of their friends at the impound yard, all under the false pretense of catching drunk drivers (a task handled much more efficiently and constitutionally by DUI patrols.)

A year ago the final checkpoint event was quietly cancelled and we haven’t heard a peep since, lending credence to our assertion that the checkpoints have always been ineffective and wasteful…so much so that nobody’s even noticed now that they’re gone.

Well, there’s one group who probably noticed: those two-dozen cops who are now missing out on the easy overtime pay. Standing around, drinking coffee and causing traffic jams just doesn’t pay like it used to.

Another DUI Checkpoint

Tomorrow night hundreds of law-abiding citizens will be stopped and questioned at a Fullerton DUI/license checkpoint while a few dozen officers stand around drinking coffee and earning overtime pay.

Unlike the previous checkpoint in May, the location of this one is being kept secret. If you want to know where the checkpoint will be, try hanging out at the local bars, where word of the location will spread immediately.

We’ve talked about how these checkpoints are extremely ineffective, nabbing only a couple of drunks while deploying a huge amount of police resources at our expense.

The police department has struggled to explain the lack of significant arrests, and has resorted to justifying the checkpoints as mere “safety education.” Our highly trained and well-compensated police officers have been reduced to handing out M.A.D.D. flyers in the middle of the street, one car at a time. That’s a task that could easily be done for free by M.A.D.D. volunteers in the bar parking lots. Of course, that approach wouldn’t be very lucrative for the police department.

These checkpoints are ineffective, invasive and expensive. It’s time to replace them with regular DUI patrols.

The DUI Checkpoint Scam: 16 Cops + 6 Hours of Overtime = 4 Drunks

How many cops does it take to bust a drunk driver? A whole lot of ’em if they’re running a checkpoint.

Last month we asked Chief Michael Sellers a few questions on recent DUI checkpoints in Fullerton. The stats that we got back lead to the conclusion that DUI checkpoints are just a handy bonus program for Fullerton cops, with little effect on public safety.

Back in March the Fullerton PD ran a 6 hour DUI checkpoint which employed sixteen police officers, each of them earning overtime pay — that’s 150% of their normal wage.  At the end of the night, the police had nabbed only four motorists for driving under the influence. The city also impounded a dozen cars from unlicensed drivers, but that’s a whole different shakedown.

Just stand here?

While hundreds of law-abiding drivers were being forced to stop and produce identification, patrons at downtown bars were spreading the word… intoxicated drivers should drive around the checkpoint on the way home.

So what is Chief Sellers’ excuse for such a blatant handout to his boys in blue?

Those guys made me do it.

The checkpoints are funded by state grants, says Sellers, as if that justifies any ‘ol squanderance that public employees can dream up. Around here, we call that “passing the buck”. It’s still our money, Chief, and we don’t want to fund overtime for your officers if they can’t be effective.

No local program should operate just because the state says it can. This is California, after all — a state renowned for it’s fiscal irresponsibility and zealous over-governance. Sixteen public safety employees on overtime without any significant accomplishments might slide under the radar in Sacramento, but we have higher expectations of our local agencies.

There will be another DUI checkpoint on tonight along Commonwealth in downtown Fullerton.

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.