[VIDA Newspaper 07/14/11 Oxnard, CA] Protestors were on hand to warn drivers about a sobriety and driver’s license checkpoint on Saturday night when Oxnard police officers screened drivers at the intersection of Channel Islands Boulevard and Dallas Drive, the eastbound lane approaching Rose Avenue
Passing drivers honked in approval and appreciation as members of Todo Poder al Pueblo Collective, lined up on the south side of Channel Islands near Albany Drive, waved cardboard signs warning them of the checkpoint ahead.
“We’re getting lots of thumbs-ups from people saying ‘thank you for doing that,’” said Francisco Romero of Todo Poder.
“It’s a total denial of basic human rights, which is why we’re getting such sympathy from throughout the neighborhood,” Elliot Gabriel, another Todo Poder member, who says this protest was just “the first one of many.”
Romero and Gabriel say police officers are unfairly using DUI checkpoints to seize cars from undocumented immigrants who are also unlicensed drivers. They say drunk driving checkpoints should be used to catch drunk drivers, not licensing violations by undocumented residents.
“They can’t get their vehicle out the next day,” explained Romero, adding that impound fees can range from $30 to $50 a day. “They can’t afford that, so they leave the vehicle and go get another for $300.”
Gabriel said the group is part of a broad coalition of civil rights and immigrant rights activists and lawyers who attended a recent workshop on Assembly Bill 1389, a bill that would change the rules for impounding vehicles. Under current law, police can impound a car or truck for 30 days if a motorist is caught driving without a valid license.
The bill, which is being sponsored in the State Senate by Gil Cedillo (D – Los Angeles) would separate sobriety checkpoints from vehicle inspection checkpoints, making it clearer when cars and trucks may be impounded. The bill passed the Assembly 54-22 on May 27, and now is waiting for approval by the State Senate Public Safety Committee before it goes to the senate floor.
The bill is being opposed by Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the California State Sheriff’s Assn. and other California law enforcement groups.
Oxnard police has expressed concerns about the issue and the perception the community has towards checkpoints and informed they are doing everything in their power not to impound vehicles from people while they continue enforcing the law. Under current law, unlicensed drivers are given time to call someone with a valid driver’s license to drive the car away.
The Channel Islands sobriety checkpoint was one of two held by Oxnard police from 6 p.m. to midnight on Saturday. Another was held in the northbound lanes of Ventura Road at Devonshire Drive.
None of the 828 drivers screened were arrested for drunken driving— but 31 drivers were given tickets for driving license violations. Fourteen of those were for driving without a license and one for driving with a suspended license.
Oxnard Police did not elaborate on what the other 16 tickets were for, but five vehicles were towed and a 46-year-old man was arrested for having drug paraphernalia.