San Diego County police departments and other California law enforcement agencies will have new limitations on towing unlicensed drivers’ vehicles when they conduct drunk driving checkpoints starting on January 1st, 2012. AB-353, which was sponsored by Assemblymen Gibert Cedillo, D-Los Angeles, and Michael Allen, D-Santa Rosa, was signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown on October 9th, according to californiawatch.org.
Officers working a sobriety roadblock often evaluate possible DUI drivers and ensure drivers have valid driver’s licenses. Many, mostly illegal immigrants, are cited for not having a license. Under current California law, their cars are then impounded for 30 days. This practice has generated tens of millions of dollars a year for towing companies and local governments, as the government receives a portion of the fines and fees collected from the contracts they have with the tow yards. (See previous blog entry, “CA Lawmakers Take Steps To Limit Money Made Off Impounded Vehicles At Drunk Driving Checkpoints.”)
Under AB-353, the police are no longer able to immediately impound the cars of sober, unlicensed drivers at these checkpoints. Instead, the cars will be released to a qualified driver representing the registered owner. In application, the vehicles will remain at the DUI checkpoint during the operation, giving the owner an opportunity to claim the vehicle. If the car is not claimed before the operation concludes, it is towed; however, it will be released as soon as a representative of the owner claims it at the tow yard and pays the city release fee and the tow and storage fee. This eliminates the mandatory 30 day impound and all the additional daily storage fees. The difference can be between a few hundred dollars and a few thousand dollars, the owner’s ability to pay, and the possibility of the owner losing the car.
This new law does not affect the officers’ ability to cite a driver and impound the vehicle for 30 days if that driver is driving on a suspended or revoked license.
The bill that would have restricted how DUI checkpoints are run, AB-1389, was vetoed by the governor.
If you have been charged with drunk driving in San Diego County, immediately contact The Law Offices of Susan L. Hartman, the exclusively DUI defense firm, for a free telephone consultation to discuss your rights, defenses, and the best strategy on how to handle your matter. Call 619-260-1122 or use the “Contact Us” form on this page.