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Above the Law

DUI Checkpoints Net 17,419 Cars, Mostly From Illegal Immigrants, Last Year in Calif: LAPD Leads The State With 1,008 Impounds

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Mon, Mar 28, 2011 at 3:40 PM

click to enlarge After your car in 2010? - ALEX THOMPSON
  • Alex Thompson
  • After your car in 2010?
Cops called it the "Year of the Checkpoint" in California.

But it might as well have been called the Year of Taking Your Car. Because, while the number of DUI checkpoints in fiscal 2010 was double that of 2009, there were six cars impounded for every one DUI arrest, according to California Watch.

It also reports there were 1,050 of the state-funded checkpoints during the holidays alone (Christmas, New Year's, the Super Bowl, St. Patrick's Day and Labor Day), doubling the number in fiscal 2009.

Some have accused the LAPD of setting up checkpoints in immigrant-heavy areas where finding unlicensed drivers and taking their cars because they're not allowed to drive them home is like shooting fish in a barrel.

click to enlarge Artist Banksy's take on illegal immigration: 'Caution.' - TED SOQUI
  • Ted Soqui
  • Artist Banksy's take on illegal immigration: 'Caution.'

The department recently changed its policy, however, allowing accessible friends and family members with licenses to drive the cars of the unlicensed home.

The DUI checkpoint -- often conducted with federal funds as well -- has been a bonanza for other law agencies statewide. California Watch:

Vehicle seizures totaled 17,419 last fiscal year. An investigation by California Watch and the Investigative Reporting Program at UC Berkeley found most of the motorists losing their cars at the operations were sober, unlicensed illegal immigrants.

The publication states that illegal immigrants likely accounted for more than two-thirds of those who had their cars taken at DUI checkpoints.

The LAPD led the state with 1,008 impounds.

Cities like Los Angeles often get $150 or more cut of the action when owners retrieve their cars after 30 days and end up paying as much as $1,500 in fines, storage and fees.

Many don't bother trying to get their vehicles back, though, leaving the cars to be auctioned off.

State Sen. Gil Cedillo of L.A. has tried repeatedly to thwart this system by introducing a bill that would allow -- as California has in the past -- illegals to get licenses. But Arnold Schwarzenegger wouldn't sign the legislation.

With a new governor in office, maybe Cedillo has another chance.

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