Sunday, February 10, 2008

the return of the Writ of Assistance?

This morning's DB fills us in on the results of friday's DUI checkpoint: 106 vehicles seized, 19 suspended-license violations, and 111 vehicle code violations in all. No mention whatsoever of actual drunks arrested; after we were pulled over one night on utterly cocked-up grounds (supposedly 50 in a 40 zone, which was not the case), I have to wonder. You'd think that if they had gotten a number of dangerous drunkards off the roads, they would have boasted about it plenty.

Our getting pulled over that night has changed my view of these things somewhat. It was clear from the moment the CHiP walked up to the car that he intended to arrest K., and only when K. agreed to take the "optional" breathalyzer test (0.00, thank you very much) did the guy ease off. I'm proud to report that K. only took the breathalyzer test after hemming and hawing out loud for awhile about so-called optional searches and the general erosion of our privacy rights (K. wants me to point out that the coppers were polite through it all, including during his rousing speech).

As far as I can tell, these ridiculous DUI checkpoints are another example of the problem. I have deep suspicions that random searches are far more about "Let's see if you've broken a law!" than about "Hey, you're too drunk to drive." If it's all about catching drunks, why does the checkpoint run from 4pm to 11pm? I'd bet anything there's a greater average blood-alcohol level after 11pm.

Note, BTW, that these things are run by the CHP, not the PPD. The latter are more interested in serving and protecting than in searching and seizing.


Ed said...

Sorry Meg, I'm going to disagree with you on this one.

I'll grant you that we should always be concerned about the slippery slope of "excessive" searches, but I don't view driving in a car in the same category as walking down the street or sitting in your house.

Everything I write may be distorted by my experiences as a cyclist, which include being honked at, yelled at, swerved at, spit at, pinched into the curb,and having to dodge something thrown out a car's window. So, when someone steps behind a wheel, I'm very aware that they have the potential to kill me or one of my family members. Shouldn't the police insure that everyone wielding a deadly tool in a public place have proper documentation?

As far as the "Let's see if you've broken a law!" criticism, I'll agree that we should be diligent and cautious regarding civil liberty intrusions, but if you're breaking the law either when driving without a license or driving under the influence, should you only be ticketed if you're doing the latter. I don't see much moral ground to stand on with the the argument that you're not doing something wrong if you don't get caught.

BTW I'm for red-light cameras, speed-sensing radar cameras, speed humps and anything else that makes the roads safer. Lastly, drive safely because the life you save may be mine!

K said...

I salute you for cycling where ever you can, Ed. That's the right thing to do!

My concern, though, is that when we decide that random checks of motorists are okay, because driving is a privilege rather than a right, we're getting onto a slippery slope.

It's tough to live in LA without driving. I know people who do it, and my hat is off to them, but it's a tough row to hoe. It means taking three or four hours to go to the beach via public transportation, and means that getting to remote trailheads in the San Gabriels is just impossible. Or, more importantly, for me, it means forgoing fulfilling employment.

If you have to have a car to get around, then those random searches suddenly become a whole lot less optional. I really don't want to get searched every time I stroll around the block to the park, and in the same way, I don't want to get stopped in my car, either.

And I felt this way even before failing the field sobriety test while completely, demonstrably sober.

[Okay, so I know there are a few lawyers out there, so maybe they'll point out the flaws in my rant...]

Ed said...

Now, K, are you suggesting that the need to drive in LA trumps the obligation to drive legally? Not to be flippant, but couldn't I say that my need to get to downtown LA faster is a justification for speeding or illegally using the carpool lanes?

I've never taken a field sobriety test, so just as a precaution, let me know at some point how you failed. :-)

K said...

Yeah, you gotta watch out for the ol' count to 30 while holding one foot off the ground test. Especially while shivering in the post-midnight cold, when you have an undiagnosed inner ear infection. Although, apparently 35% or so of people fail this test consistently under ideal conditions. Bummer.

I'd never suggest that the need to travel by car should lower our standards. My only complaint is with the random "please show us your papers" searches that are used to enforce these perfectly reasonable laws.

I don't want drunk drivers on our roads or terrorists blowing us up[*], but I'm really nervous about giving up my rights in a possibly ineffective bid for greater safety.

[*] But apparently I have no fear of way over-blown analogies... :-)

Ed said...

K, in case you missed it, Claremont is running a DUI checkpoint this Friday.

If the checkpoints are a fix to a problem, I think we can dismiss DUIs and terrorists as the problem. I could see a justification if there is data suggesting drivers lacking licenses or having suspended/revoked licenses contribute significantly to the number of vehicular accidents. Unfortunately, I doubt we will hear the true rationale, so I agree with all your points on whether the "cost" is worth the benefit. Then again, is there any other way to catch the drivers driving illegally? How many of these vehicles being operated illegally don't have insurance? How many of the "Pomona bicyclemen" would be driving cars?

I agree that we should be wary of slippery slopes, but that slope may also apply to which laws we choose not to enforce.

meg said...

I have less of a problem with specific checks -- for registration or whatever. My problem is with drag-nets, where they stop everyone to see if we're breaking any laws. That's scary shit.

John Clifford said...

Just read where Claremont is having a traffic checkpoint from 6:00 pm until 2:00 am (yes, a reasonable time).

How much do you want to bet that Claremont will do its usual thing and set up their checkpoint at one of the borders with Pomona? They usually set it up either on Indian Hill just south of the 10 Freeway (to catch people coming into their city from our sinful place) or on Fruit just off the 210 for those coming into the city from lord only knows where.

Ed said...

Now that the Ford dealership has left, Claremont may need to find money somewhere. Pomona puts up shopping complexes next to Claremont, so Claremont puts up DUI checkpoints next to Pomona. It all makes perfect sense.

I haven't been stopped at a checkpoint recently. Do they ask for more than your driver's license? And I think the purpose of the drag-nets is to have the checks pass legal muster.

John Clifford said...

If I recall correctly, they ask for driver's license, vehicle registration, and proof of insurance card. I've been stopped a couple of times on Garey near The Garden and in LaVerne on Arrow Highway (again, usual spots for such setups by Pomona PD and LaVerne PD).

calwatch said...

They also can ask where you are going at times, and I generally either agree when they ask leading questions or just say I'm driving around. I feel no obligation to disclose where I'm going at any time. Although most of the time I try to avoid the checkpoints by detouring on side streets, if possible. Not because I am doing anything illegal but because I fundamentally choose not to participate, and by state law, you are required to have some way of getting around the checkpoint. (And no, I have never been stopped attempting to bypass a checkpoint, which is a common myth. I make legal U-Turns or turn into driveways and/or side streets, which may arouse suspicion, but they must run the license and find that everything is kosher.)

Anonymous said...

I can't stand those police search stops but not for the usual reason.
I work in Gardena and if I am lucky I make it home in 1 1/2 hours to Pomona (43 fun miles)
Having ANY time added to my dreadful drive by these checkpoints drives me effin' crazy! They always back up into nearby intersections and jamm up everything in the area.
And yes, I have been stopped for legally turning out of the line of cars by the police.