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GUEST OPINION: Why we’re protesting police impounds


Lest readers not understand anything else about the protest against police checkpoints (“Protesters warn drivers of police checkpoints,” July 12), they should understand that I support law enforcement efforts to get drunken drivers off our roads.

My problem is with our police taking advantage of the poorest people of our community by implementing an impound policy that is contrary to current law.

Alicia Roman.

I have reviewed several hundred pages of documents, including Department of Motor Vehicles statistics and reports received from Sonoma County police officials and obtained from other sources. I have had discussions with community members, including Santa Rosa Police Chief Tom Schwedhelm and Petaluma Police Sgt. Ken Savano, and conducted several hours of legal research. I’ve also observed Sonoma County law enforcement checkpoints for more than a year.

The claims put forward by the police, that 30-day impounds (1) comply with constitutional protections against unreasonable seizures, (2) are necessary to deter unsafe drivers and (3) are a fair penalty for those who break the law, are not persuasive. I am confident that our protest against the 30-day impounds of cars driven by non-drunken drivers is not only appropriate but necessary.

With others from the Committee for Immigrant Rights, I have discussed with Schwedhelm the fact that police have a choice. They can choose to follow the law and stop 30-day impounds of non-drunken drivers’ cars, and there will be no protest. However, they choose to impound cars from hard-working individuals and families.

I have on various occasions seen officers in Santa Rosa impound cars of families with small children and leave them on the side of the road with all their belongings in freezing temperatures, putting the children at risk of getting sick.

I saw an officer direct a person, who was driving home from work when his car was impounded, to walk down a dark winding road in Petaluma — in front of the outlet stores.

Through discussions with community members, I heard about a father who was forced to carry his disabled adult daughter down a busy road when his specially modified minivan was impounded.

All these people were placed in danger by police who are sworn to protect them. These stories represent why I am protesting our local police department impound policies.

There are several alternatives to impounding cars for 30 days for non-drunken drivers. A few of these alternatives (which other counties have chosen to implement) include:

• Citing the driver and giving him or her an opportunity to make a phone call to a licensed driver to pick up the car within 30 minutes.

• Allowing the car to remain parked where it is, if the location is safe place, and having the driver sign a waiver allowing the car to be towed at the expense of the driver.

• Allowing the vehicle to be stored until a licensed driver can pick up the vehicle.

The thing some critics cannot fathom is why anyone would advocate for those who are easy targets, the poor and undocumented. I would like to tell these people that before they rush to judgment, they should think for a moment or more about their true motives for criticizing my objection to our impound policies.

Alicia Roman is a Santa Rosa attorney and a member of the Committee for Immigrant Rights.

23 Responses to “GUEST OPINION: Why we’re protesting police impounds”

  1. Get REAL! says:

    Driving is a privledge in this country. We all have to have drivers training in school and pass a written and practical evaluation in order to obtain our licenses. We then need to have car insurance or a $5,000 bond in a savings account to protect ourselves and other drivers..

    If someone is Breaking the LAW… then I thank God for our law enforcers doing something about it on my behalf!! Get Legal, get a license, get insurance and drive sober and aware of our laws and all is well..

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  2. love says:

    The two main point that people should be obtaining from this article are safety and police protection. Both with seem to be lacked due to our current system. What I understood from the article and have personally experienced, is that police no longer care about our safety and that of others. Today I was pulled over for a “suspended” license and my car was impounded. The police took my car and left me on harbor blvd with no regard to my safety. I sat on the curb for an hour waiting for a ride. I missed school, my dad had to take off work, an I wasted a whole day at the DMV to prove to the police my license was NOT suspended. After proving the fact, I retrieved my car and paid for the impound. I returned to the police station to find that my money was not able to be reimbursed by them that I would have to sue the city..mm no thanks, but an apology would have been appreciated, for wasting my entire day. I can’t afford the cost of an impound, not even with my three jobs, but all money aside, the cop left me on the side of the road stranded, he didn’t even offer me a ride, not to my school that I was ten blocks from, not to the police department, just left me, embarrassed and upset. He didn’t wait to see if I had a ride. He just wrote me a ticket within two minutes towed my car and left me on the street. I’m so upset with him cause he didn’t care about me. He wasn’t concerned about my life or the lives of others. I understand that mistakes are made, and that from previous unjust cases that people may have died from laws are made, but still the main concern of a police officer should always be to protect and serve its citizens, and I feel that this issue of police impounds should find an alternate method rather then leaving people on the streets. Impound their car if you must, but drop the people off at a police station, the impound lot, or somewhere that they can be protected.

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  3. CC says:

    Ms. Roman seems to have a point, and while we are at it let’s excuse every other crime they (“illegals” immigrants or full fledged citizens) commit because ..uhm.. well they are poor. Yeah, that’s it they are poor. No speeding tickets, no drunk in public,no DUI, no shoplifting, no robbery…yeah that’s it what a great idea, and then we can all pick up the tab for those ..uhm..indiscretions, yeah indiscretions that is all they are! Please can somebody tell this lady, “You have no moral high ground” and ” these rumors you claim are “true life stories” take away your credibility not add to it.We live by the rules so should you!

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  4. wendy says:


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  5. NOTUTOO says:

    The reason “they” don’t have driver license’s is not a direct fallout from being an illegal alien, it’s because there is no possible way to determine who “they” are. Record keeping south of the boarder is spotty if outright non existant. There have been several initiatives to allow illegal aliens the right to obtain a license but it comes down to there being no way to verify the applicants identity. This is also partly why it is generally easier to immigrate from a anglo country, identity is easier to verify.

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  6. akr says:

    jdonegal – that’s a very distressing story, and I thank you for telling it. I think the problem though was almost certainly the .24 blood alcohol level, and perhaps youth and inexperience. Assuming 150 pounds I think I recall that that’s 12 drinks still in his system, which means a lot more than that went in, because his body is also pumping it out.

    I like the idea of providing some form of license and allowing people to get insured. The international driver’s license is probably the right approach. We can make them take the test.

    I care about having safe, and insured, drivers on the roads, and while I’m not a huge fan of illegal immigration we all know there’s a lot of it, that some of our local businesses depend upon it, and so the guilt is shared. (And there’s actually less of it now, I believe, because a lot of people have gone home to Mexico because of the lack of work here. It doesn’t make as much economic sense as it once did.)

    Recklessness: prosecute. DUI: prosecute. and if illegal resident, also prosecute. But we don’t need to on a search mission that will target anyone who looks vaguely Hispanic or Middle Eastern (because you probably can’t tell the difference anyway).

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  7. common sense says:

    Would Ms. Roman be willing to fly in an airplane in which the pilot had no valid pilots license or had his license revoked for some reason?
    Would she be upset with the F.A.A. for removing that pilot from the cockpit before the flight?
    Just wondering….

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  8. concerned citizen says:

    Lest Alicia Roman not understand anything else about public sentment regarding unlicensed or illegal aliens endangering our lives on the roadway, she should understand that we don’t like it.In fact, we find it unaceptable.
    Ms. Roman should do some research on how many accidents are caused by the people that she is attempting to sheild from the consequences of their actions, and how many people have had those folks leave an accident scene that they caused, or not been held accountable for injuries or damages that they inflicted on the law abiding citizens they harm. I, for one have had one of these poor unlicensed drivers rear end my car, then become violent, kicking my door as my two year old looked on in fright and I called the police. Then she fled the scene.Her bumper sticker said “butterflys, not bombs”.
    As to Ms Romans assertion that the police are not following the law by impounding vehicles, since when is she so concerned with following the law? Or is it only her version of the law that we should all abide by? If it were not legal for the police to impound the vehicles, why would Ms Roman feel the need to protest instead of doing some pro bono work and ending the practice- if she is really an attorney.
    After that unpersuasive argument, she moves on to the perpetrator-as-victem ploy and attempts to discredit the police actions by calling them mean for endangering the lawbreakers by making them walk. No one is stopping them from making a phone call to have a friend pick them up, as she suggests they be allowed to do in regard to their car.Since these people have no respect for the rules of the road, where do we draw the line? Should they be allowed to steal someones car, cash or bicycle if they need it? After all, they’re poor.
    Ms Roman might ask herself what are the true motives behind critsizing the police and those of us who appreciate the protection they afford us.The thing Ms Roman cannot fathom is why we would like the laws of the land upheld. If she so desperately needs to put herself in the “hero to the poor” role, then maybe working in a soup kitchen, donating money or time to the needy would fulfill that desire without endangering the rest of us, flaunting our laws, or condemming our hard working law enforcement and the vast majority of American citizens.

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  9. Theosebes Goodfellow says:

    ~”The claims put forward by the police, that 30-day impounds (1) comply with constitutional protections against unreasonable seizures, (2) are necessary to deter unsafe drivers and (3) are a fair penalty for those who break the law, are not persuasive. I am confident that our protest against the 30-day impounds of cars driven by non-drunken drivers is not only appropriate but necessary.”~

    Your protest is not appropriate unless you believe that there should be no penalty for breaking the law. 30 days to sort out whether or not the offender should have a) gotten a license or b) had the proper insurance, valid registration, etc. is not an undue burden. The fact that many of these violators’s vehicles aren’t worth the impound fees is not the problem of the rest of us who follow the law. Driving is still a privilege, not a right. Ms. Roman seems to have forgotten the distinction.

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  10. Graeme Wellington says:

    Instead of complaining about police enforcing the law, maybe you could go about changing the licensing laws so that illegals can get a driver license – maybe an international license along with some driver training and then get the proper insurance to go along with it. Maybe you can educate illegals about these laws and how to use public transportation or ride a bicycle asking a friend with a license for a ride. All these people defending illegals instead of complaining about the man, they might want to volunteer to drive them around or help them get insurance or getting their papers filed with USCIS.

    Quit complaining and demanding everyone else do something for them — YOU do something to help them.

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  11. jdonegan says:

    I went to the clinic a few years ago to have my teeth cleaned at SRJC. The young lady involved with the process of taking my ex-rays noticed a growth on my neck, called her instructor over who dismissed it; however she had this very troubling look on her face so I had it checked out. Yes it was Cancer, I had aggressive treatment and am fine today. Crystal however was killed in a horrific collision when a driver came up the wrong way up the offramp. We do not really know if it was this young mans inability to read the road signs, or the fact he had no experience as a driver being unlicensed. Or the simple fact he was drunk at three times the legal limit. What we do know is she is no longer with us, a highly educated college graduate. And we know that the man who killed her was in this country illegally and joins 2700 other illegal immigrants just from Sonoma county in State Prison at a collective cost of some 108 million dollars a year. Who is to say suffers the greater hardship, the person who has to walk to work, or the person who is killed by an unlicensed driver. all I know is I miss a particularly bright and cheerful young lady, who’s family is unconsolable.

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  12. @Okie Enlightened says:

    @Okie Enlightened is playing the race card again. S/he mentioned a black president in comments for both of the articles on this topic. What a cheap, as well as very poor, argument. The problem is with people who break the law. We have no problem with Hispanics, blacks, whites, or anyone else who DOES NOT BREAK THE LAW.

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  13. The Real Problem says:

    14602.6(a) CVC: 14602.6. (a) (1) Whenever a peace officer determines that a person was driving a vehicle while his or her driving privilege was suspended or revoked, driving a vehicle while his or her driving privilege is restricted pursuant to Section 13352 or 23575 and the vehicle is not equipped with a functioning, certified interlock device, or driving a vehicle without ever having been issued a driver’s license, the peace officer may either immediately arrest that person and cause the removal and seizure of that vehicle or, if the vehicle is involved in a traffic collision, cause the removal and seizure of the vehicle without the necessity of arresting the person in accordance with Chapter 10 (commencing with Section 22650) of Division 11. A vehicle so impounded shall be impounded for 30 days.

    Doesn’t get much clearer, does it?

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  14. The Real Problem says:

    The grandstanding in this column is unbelievable! Talking about poor families and handicapped people being left alone, in the dark and cold. Come on!!

    The bottom line is this: Don’t drive without a license. If you can’t get a license because you are an undocumented alien, bummer! Ms. Roman should work to change the law in the legislature so that undocumented aliens can get a driver’s license, so they can then get insurance. Just put a stipulation on that class of license that it may not be used for ID purposes.

    Trying to say that local police are some sort of driver’s license gestapo and are insensitive to families and disabled people is simply embellishment.

    Research the law, specifically 14602.6(a) CVC, and you’ll find that it’s pretty clear.

    If you still have questions about this issue, ask one of the many Sonoma County residents who have been involved in accidents with an unlicensed, uninsured motorist of ANY cultural background. They’ll tell you all about it!

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  15. ramona crinella says:

    Ms. Roman needs to get the current law changed so that it exempts “hard working individuals” from having valid driver licenses. That will take care of the problem.

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  16. Right on Alicia! Let’s call it what it is: White Backlash–time to pick on the Mexicans since we’re all feeling so low with a bad economy and that darned black President!

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  17. Michaele Morales says:

    Good job Alicia! Keep up the good work, we support everything you are doing.


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  18. Julie says:

    Please go to the forums and read 40+ opinions on this opinion article, they are quite telling what this County thinks of this woman’s comments. Not sure why the PD does not link them to here.

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  19. NOTUTOO says:

    I would like the Guest to please explain this statement; “My problem is with our police taking advantage of the poorest people of our community by implementing an impound policy that is contrary to current law.”

    Exactly what current law is the policy contrary to?

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  20. sheryl judge says:

    As a lawyer, it is your responsibility to uphold the law. Unlicensed, uninsured motorists have no business on our streets. If they choose to break the law and drive, they can face the consequences. People like you are part of the problem with today’s society. If you break the law it’s no one’s fault but your own…no excuses, no outs. If you are so concerned about the ILLEGALS, maybe you should do some community service and convince them to stop breaking the law, assimilate into OUR society and immunized their children. It seems with the kind of help you want to give them would keep them in the down trodden spot they find themselves in when the come here ILLEGALLY!!!!!

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  21. @Alicia says:

    You failed to mention that those non-drunken drivers who are undocumented are CRIMINALS. Police do not have a choice–if they let criminals drive away when they have been driving without a valid license, don’t have insurance, or are illegal immigrants, then they are not upholding the law! Police should not let anyone break the law! Anyone who hasn’t been tested for a license or can’t afford to pay damages because they have no insurance is a danger to the rest of the community. If you don’t want to be arrested or have your car impounded, STOP BREAKING THE LAW.

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  22. Alejandro Alvarez says:

    Definitely, I am with you. I have families and friends that are in these situation. You have my support and I will be there.



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  23. Steele says:

    Ms. Roman seems noble in her position and hides behind the opaque veil of advocating for ALL drivers. She takes issue with the Police for “taking advantage of the poorest people of our community”.
    I’m not sure what being poor has to do with having a valid California Drivers license. I think they are $15 or something like that.
    Oh no, don’t be fooled by her sophomoric tactic, She really means it as a euphemism for illegal’s aliens!
    So let’s call it what it is; law abiding citizens have to pay higher insurance premiums, suffer financial losses, and unrecoverable damages. Live in physical risk of injury or DEATH, by an unlicensed, unskilled, driver of a 2 ton, unmaintained, lethal missile?
    This is BS!
    Ms. Roman should stand up and say what she means! Skirting around the truth with a flimsy 1/2 baked charade of a position robs her credibility.

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