The City of Escondido has agreed to review its towing fees after scathing criticism of its DUI checkpoint policies. The criticism came from the American Civil Liberties Union, which called the DUI checkpoint policies in the city some of the most extreme in California.
The report by the American Civil Liberties Union report was released last week, and raises questions about the motivations behind the city's DUI checkpoint and impoundment policies. San Diego DUI attorneys have frequently leveled such criticism not only at Escondido’s DUI checkpoint policies, but similar policies across the state of California. Cities like Los Angeles have also dealt with criticism that their DUI checkpoints are more a vehicle for enriching the city coffers with impoundment revenues, than any real effort to get drunk drivers off the street.
The ACLU elaborates on the same theme in its report, saying that the impoundment practices in Escondido unfairly target undocumented immigrants, who may be driving without a valid license. These individuals may have their vehicles impounded, and may have to pay thousands of dollars in fees to be able to retrieve their car.
Many of the impounded cars belong to people from Hispanic and low-income communities, who may not be able to raise the money required to retrieve their car. That means more economic hardships for an already impoverished community, because these people now don't have the means to walk to work or to school.
According to the ACLU Report, which was based on a journalistic investigation, Escondido may be profiting from the revenues from these checkpoints which include towing fees, towing contracts as well grants from the California's Office of Traffic Safety. Under California law, cities must not charge towing fees that are higher than the actual costs of the towing expenses involved. However, an evaluation of Escondido’s towing fees finds that the city's calculations of its towing expenses have hit the roof since 2004, and include what the report calls ‘creative’ and ‘suspect’ expenses.