WatchSonoma Watch

A second life for auto impound bill

My colleague Jim Fremgen reported in his Road Warrior blog that a provision restricting car impounds from unlicensed drivers was stripped from a bill by Santa Rosa Assemblyman Michael Allen. A lot of people assume that means the restrictions won’t become law. I wouldn’t bet on it.

Allen’s bill now addresses sobriety checkpoints, and there’s strong opposition from lobbyists from the cops and from Mothers Against Drunk Driving. A nonpartisan legislative analysis says the bill would write guidelines established by the state Supreme Court into state law. Opponents say the bill goes further than the court intended. My guess: Allen’s bill gets killed in the state Senate.

But the provision prohibiting police from impounding cars from unlicensed drivers at sobriety checkpoints unless there is evidence of some other crime stands. It’s now the sole subject of a separate bill by Assemblyman Gil Cedillo, D-Los Angeles, and there is no formal opposition. Cedillo’s bill also is awaiting approval in the Senate. I think it has a good chance of passing, especially without the provisions actively opposed by law enforcement and MADD.

Under state law, impounds aren’t mandatory, and many police agencies already have instituted policies similar to Cedillo’s legislation. We recently editorialized in favor of policies allowing people to contact a licensed driver to pick up a car that otherwise would be impounded. A lot of people vehemently disagree, and their case gets stronger every time an unlicensed driver kills a 4-year-old in a crosswalk – or anyone else, for that matter.

Here’s something that might push me solidly into the pro-impound category: Change state law to allow police to impound cars from uninsured motorists. Plenty of people have licenses, but don’t bother with insurance. I thought they already were subject to impounds, but Sheriff Steve Freitas and Santa Rosa Police Chief Tom Schwedhelm set me straight. A court can impound an uninsured driver’s car, but that’s optional. Treat unlicensed and uninsured drivers the same way, and there would be a better argument that impounds aren’t discriminatory. And we all might be a little safer on the road.

– Jim Sweeney


24 Responses to “A second life for auto impound bill”

  1. Linda says:

    Perhaps this issue should be voted on by the people. Too bad our elected politicans only concern themselves with the growing Latino vote instead of standing by laws that protect all citizens. Another problem is the outrageous cost of obtaining auto insurance that includes uninsured motorists. Perhaps those that want Assemblyman Allen’s bill to pass should pick up the tab every time an uninsured motorist causes an accident. Hurassment towards Latinos? You’re the racist wanting the Latinos to be above the law.

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  2. John Hudson says:

    Sweeney has the right idea about getting uninsured drivers off the road and impounding their cars. But we need to get unlicensed drivers off the road too. A car in the hands of either is a public nuisance.

    We also need to raise the minimum coverage limits of liability insurance. The present limits were set before the Great Inflation of the seventies. They are completely unrealistic. The insurance industry does not want the minimum coverage limits raised to a more realistic level because it knows that the worst drivers choose the policies with the lowest limits, thereby reducing the exposure of the insurance industry. At present, a minimum coverage policy will never pay out more than $35,000 for a single collision no matter how many people are killed or injured. The present limits are $15,000 per person injured, not to exceed $30,000 per collision for all injured persons, plus $5,000 for property damage. This is the $35,000 per accident limit I referred to. Obviously this is inadequate. The reason we have these inadequate limits is because that it is the way the insurance industry wants it.

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  3. Wiser says:

    Ok Sonoma County listen careful.
    When you have been hit by a drunk driver twice and severly injured both times we have a problem, does not matter that your white, black, or hispanic, but I can tell you both times was hispanic driver no insurance, and prior offenses.
    I can also tell you he was taken by the police and put in jail, and was out the next day driving.
    I can tell you I felt a victim in the court as much as I did in the street.
    I do not think its funny as the judge and his attorney laughed.
    Judge said and laughed that the attorney would get his money before the court did.
    The hispanic driver never even had to show up to court and he had priors. I showed up, I have children in this county and this needs to stop. I support the checkpoints and our police dept keeping the public more safe.
    Why is it such a problem and not being addressed, its called big money for courts and attorney’s with the revolving door of drunks.

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  4. Jim Sweeney says:

    As I guessed, Cedillo’s impound bill has cleared the Senate and is headed back to the Assembly for a final vote. Allen’s bill is still awaiting action on the Senate floor.

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  5. Phil Maher says:


    Trust me when I tell you that I have no doubts about Valerie’s agenda, nor do I support her in any way, but there are provisions in the Ca Gov Code (as I recall- section 81000 et seq) wherein an official with a clear conflict of interest is not required to recuse themselves if doing so would prevent the board from voting when a quorum would not be obtainable otherwise. That said, there’s little doubt that a seasoned and calculating politician such as her would have known this and fully exploited such an opportunity to their advantage, whereas a fair and proper course of action by an honest person would have been to postpone the vote until all members of the board were present. We see this type of thing all too frequently as she and her like-minded ilk clamor for power and control. It certainly sounds like a Brown Act…just not quite the one that the voters intended. Despicably her style of selfish and arguably treasonous governance!

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  6. Elizabeth Krongold says:

    Found this about Valerie Brown on a website called Democrats Against UN Agenda 21

    On June 6, 2011, Rosa Koire, Executive Director of The Post Sustainability Institute, reported Sonoma County Supervisor Valerie Brown to the California Fair Political Practices Commission for an alleged conflict of interest. Supervisor Brown, who also serves on the national board of ICLEI-USA, voted to grant an $83,000 no-bid contract to ICLEI for greenhouse gas emissions protocols in Sonoma County. Supervisor Brown did not recuse herself from voting and made no mention of her connection to ICLEI when she voted to enter an $83,000 contract on behalf of her county. The Fair Political Practices Commission, a government ethics agency, has 14 days from the filing date to determine whether or not to launch an investigation (detail of filing on the left and below). UPDATE: The FPPC has notified us that they do not have enough information to open an investigation. We will obtain more information and continue to pursue this.

    Provision or Provisions of the Political Reform Act Allegedly Violated:
    Valerie Brown, Sonoma County Supervisor, voted to pay ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability, a private non-profit organization, $83,000 for Community Scale Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Protocol while she was sitting on the National Board for ICLEI-USA. On November 17, 2009, at a meeting of the Board of Directors of the Sonoma County Water Agency on which she was a Director, Valerie Brown voted to approve the Agreement between SCWA and ICLEI. The vote was 3-0 with two Directors (Kerns and Carrillo) absent. If Brown had recused herself the vote could not have gone forward with only two Directors present, and the contract would not have had enough votes to be approved. ICLEI-USA has national and international conferences and trainings which Ms. Brown has attended. There is a likelihood of compensation in the form of lodging, meals, honorariums, transportation, etc. Even if Ms. Brown did not receive a direct payment from ICLEI-USA she would have had an interest in seeing ICLEI-USA receive a contract for $83,000. It appears to be a conflict of interest to represent a private non-profit nationally and internationally and then award that same organization a contract from the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors. Sonoma County is a dues-paying member to ICLEI-USA.

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  7. Bob says:

    Lynn Pettit, you covered my points so thoroughly that I need not repeat. Those that don’t like the sobriety check points, maybe they should call them drivers license / insurance check points and get these unlicensed, uninsured drivers off the road.

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  8. Sarky Fish says:

    If you plan on crossing the U.S. border and driving your vehicle into Mexico, you must have Mexican domiciled Car Insurance. A prudent driver will now include this insurance for north of the boarder driving. Let’s face it, political correctness trumps law and sanity.

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  9. Try to Drive It Home says:

    No valid drivers license, crush and deport.

    No insurance, crush and deport.

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  10. Kim says:

    NR, you are correct, those with a license and insurance do cause accidents..HOWEVER….with an individual with No license nor insurance where does the family go to receive compensation of any kind for the death of their child? Talk about the lack of critical thinking….sheesh!

    The issue IS, in fact, black and white. Either you condemn or condone breaking laws, critical thinking is not required, logic is…….

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  11. Joseph Donegan says:

    82% of the impounded cars in Sonoma county happen to belong to Latino’s.
    On October 31, 2009 200 protesters marched on Santa Rosa claiming the impounding of cars is a racially motivated event and produced undo hardships on the immigrant community. As a Result, after meetings with the attorneys who organized the march, policy was changed resulting in this case a young man driving without a license being allowed to keep his car despite our vehicle code demanding it be impounded.
    The march, which I came across on my way to the bank was hard on me. The very night before a young lady by the name of Crystal Carillo-Martinez was killed by a wrong way driver. He was drunk at three time the limit, did not have a license, and was found to be in this country illegally.
    Crystal held a special place for me, for she as a radiologist student noticed some cancer on my neck. So I had it checked out and removed. While I am still battling cancer, I am alive, and 24 year old Crystal is gone.
    That event makes these continued protests about the racial profiling absurd. But again, it was the immigrant community that made it a racial issue here in Santa Rosa and Sonoma County in General.
    I keep thinking of the comedian Richard Prior at his show in New Orleans, saying “We all get along in here, why we cannot get along out there”
    I have a suspended license due to a Medical condition, it is not that hard to live my life not driving a car.

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  12. Joseph Donegan says:

    @Lynn Pettit
    Nicely written.

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  13. NR says:

    Plenty of people WITH licenses AND insurance cause accidents due to negligence. Those don’t usually make the press though. This is an example of people using this issue to springboard into anti immigrant rantings without any critical thinking whatsoever. I am not pro illegal immigration or pro driving without licenses, but my point is that the issue is not as black and white as the posters think it is.

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  14. Lynn Pettit says:

    There are several issues involved in the tragic hit and run killing in a Santa Rosa crosswalk of a four year old boy. One issue is unlicensed and uninsured drivers, both situations are against the law;yet how the law is enforced is at issue and in my opinion is addressed badly in the proposed legislation by assemblymen Cedillo and Allen. Stopped? first offense? Second or multiple offenses? At a DUI check point or at another location? It doesn’t matter. Police should immediately impound the car, charge a storage fee until the culprit can provide proof of insurance or a valid license. If this is not done, then the car should be disposed of. The second issue is illegal alien or legal resident. It is wrong to confuse the issues. Laws need to be enforced uniformly and the issue of “legal” resident is a totally separate issue to be enforced separately. One thing is very clear. If the illegal resident who sped through a marked cross walk and killed an innocent child and then drove off had his car taken away from him when he was twice previously cited for the same offense, then the child might still be alive. This person could easily have been a “legal” resident, it makes no difference, the punishment should be the same and the issue of legal residency taken up separately.It is disheartening to know that the killer faces a maximum sentence of only four years in prison. Two previous citations,now a dead child, and just a slap on the hand? This, too should be cause for outrage. Contact your state senators and urge that they vote against the Allen and Cedillo bills. Legal resident or illegal alien, get these unlicensed and uninsured drivers off our roads. Don’t coddle them and make it easier for them to kill. Your friend or loved one might be next.

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  15. Joseph donegan says:

    I think the bottom line is we tried this experiment of letting unlicensed drivers keep their cars on the second offense. The result is that five days later a young boy was killed in a crosswalk when this man failed to stop as others drivers had done. This tragedy happened not far from a spot were another young boy was killed by a women who’s license was suspended for medical reasons and ploud into the back of her fathers car.
    10% of the drivers in sonoma county are driving without a license. another 4 to 6% ARE DRIVING ON A SUSPENDED LICENSE.
    This has to stop and the safety checkpoint, which DUI checkpoint are is a very effective way of educating the public. The random placement of these checkpoints is a key component of that message to the public. If you are fearful: then just maybe you are doing something you know you should not be doing.
    The number one rule in equipment safety is “If you have not been trained in the use of the machine; You should not be allowed to use it period”

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  16. Jim Sweeney says:

    Bruno, you’ll need to take up with the newsroom what gets covered and what doesn’t get covered. I don’t assign stories, and the newsroom isn’t represented on the editorial board. I did read the LA Times’ report on Michael Allen’s undercover day at Napa State Hospital. It was interesting stuff, and I suppose I could have linked it here. Click here if you want read it.
    As for Allen’s bill and timing of the post on Watch Sonoma, I wrote an editorial endorsing his bill. It appeared in the paper on June 1 and said, in part, “Allen’s goal is to establish a uniform policy for checkpoints, not to end them, or to let unlicensed drivers off the hook. His bill, which cleared the Assembly last week, deserves to become state law.” I posted this item because I thought readers were interpreting my colleague’s post as meaning that the impound proposal was dead. I don’t think that’s true, and I don’t see where it’s a shot at Allen to say so.
    Maybe I should know the details of the conflict complaint against Valerie Brown, but I don’t, so I can’t address it. Besides your comments again seem to be directed at news coverage, and I’m not part of the news-gathering operation.
    – Jim Sweeney

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  17. Kim says:

    Oh Heather, you are certainly correct the way the PD handled the story of the four year old being killed in the crosswalk. One could just read the tip-toeing in all the articles and subsequently not putting any of the articles up on WSC is just pandering to the politically correct, the ACLU, not to metion La Raza. Spineless Press Democrat, totally spineless!

    When ever I see anything with Gill Cedillo’s name on it, I run the other way.

    I certainly hope that the family, irregardless of what industry they are afiliated with, sues the city for not impounding the vehicle of the dipstick that ran over the four year old. If that car was sitting in impound from his last bout with the PD for not having a license, a four year old would be alive today and a family would not have their hearts sitting in a broken pile on the ground. But, NO! Now after the guy gets convicted of killing the four year old we will have him locked up for many years…you and I will be footing the bill for that. Wouldn’t it have been more cost effective to have deported his illegal butt when he got cought driving without a license the first time?

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  18. Reality Check says:

    The law’s first priority must be to protect the innocent.

    Does anyone believe the act of denying someone a driver’s license is a deterrent sufficient to keep them from driving? I doubt it.

    How many times have each of us read news accounts of unlicensed drivers death or serious injury while driving? More times than I care to know, sadly.

    While one might wish that impounding the cars of illegal drivers wasn’t necessary, it looks like it is. People who disregard society’s license law also seem to disregard society’s expectation that we drive safely.

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  19. Heather says:

    Any thought of still moving such a bill to allow unlicensed drivers keep their car is outrageous and should be dropped. It was a bad idea before the 4 year old was killed and it is an even worse idea now.

    Also, it has been interesting to watch how the Press Democrat has done everything in its power to hide the fact that he is an illegal alien as first reported by the paper. Since then the issue has been buried.

    People in this state should demand that these criminals (illegal aliens and those that hire them be held accountable. And the first thing we should be doing is making sure we not only sieze their cars when caught driving but deport them asap. Had that been done this boy would still be alive.

    What is needed is a rally to urge that our communities and ICE crack down on illegal aliens.

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  20. Ricardo Sorentino says:

    RE: “We recently editorialized in favor of policies allowing people to contact a licensed driver to pick up a car that otherwise would be impounded. A lot of people vehemently disagree, and their case gets stronger every time an unlicensed driver kills a 4-year-old in a crosswalk – or anyone else, for that matter.”

    For some reason it was left out that this driver was already cited twice before for driving without a valid license. And it didn’t mention that this was a hit-and-run accident. It sure seems reasonable to me that he couldn’t have had insurance either, and now it’s being reported that this person may be an illegal immigrant to boot.

    An interesting ‘spin’ on this story is that the victims’ family are either directly or indirectly in the wine industry, the very industry that quietly promotes illegal immigration to work in that very business, allowing wineries to make millions due to the low-paying wages. Cruel twist of fate.

    Won’t be any winners in this tragedy, though I’m sure the liberals will post repeatedly the right for this unlicensed driver to not only not have had his vehicle impounded, but to not be deported for his other convictions too.

    That’s too bad; maybe we’d still have a four-year old boy with us, looking forward to his fifth birthday.

    And while I’m the first to complain about ‘big government’, here’s hoping that some government agency will soon be looking into the hiring practices of Joey’s Original Pizza, along with any possible liability.

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  21. Dan Delgado says:

    While the current post don’t reflect, prior discussions on this topic here at WSC have pointed to the uninsured as being the real problem, at least much more so than the merely unlicensed. I concur. Let’s get the uninsured off the road.

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  22. What Can Be Done says:

    No insurance, impound and crush. Send the bill for the cost to the driver.

    No valid drivers license, impound until the driver gets a license or the impounder sells the car in 30 days to be crushed. Driver pays all fees to get the car returned.

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  23. Bruno Fahey says:

    Thanks for updating us on the Assemblyman’s bill. I have to question your timing though. Your paper has consistently and assiduously avoided any coverage of Assemblyman Allen’s stellar work at Napa State Hospital,(Hearings on the issue were held as recently as Monday) where he has received a huge amount of local AND EVEN National coverage for his work in investigating and advocating for safe staffing and improved working conditions after several nurses were killed at work. Yet as the local “hometown paper” the PD never covered any of it. Now after a tragic and well publicized death involving a child and an undocumented immigrant you give Assemblyman Allen’s bill a prominent place on the PD’s WSC “Hatesite” where the negative anonymous posts roam free 24/7…I have to say it looks very much like you are biased against him (as you are against Senator Evans) and are just as determined to make sure no positive action of his ever gets publicized. It wouldn’t be so bad if you had not also ommitted coverage of Supervisor (and PD endorsed favorite) Valerie Brown’s recent FPPC Conflict of Interest charges in direct contrast to your paper’s relentless coverage of Allen’s Conflict of interest challenge (by the Very same accuser) I can only conclude that your news reporting and editorial boards are used politically to attack those whose political beliefs you dislike and to shield those elected you favor and endorse. I would appreciate your response to this.

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  24. j.c says:

    if “MADD” did any kind of research they would find out that regular patrolling is 95% more effective at catching drunks than this UNCOSTITUTIONAL tactics. yes guidelines should change and the harassment needs to stop. are the cities now 100% safe? is there no more crime to fight? GET BACK TO WORK! STOP HIDING BEHIND THIS CHECKPOINT’S SKIRTS.
    this continuous enforcements on citizens prove two things #1 the citi is way overstaffed with police and #2 there is no one in the citi counsel who is willing to. come out and say TRUST our People and stop KILLING THE BUSINESSES WHERE YOU SET UP YOUR CHECKPOINTS.

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