Millions Made From Cars Impounded At DUI Checkpoints

Number Of Cars Impounded At Checkpoints Significantly Higher Than DUI Arrests

DUI checkpoints are making too much money and not doing enough to stop drunken driving, according to some state lawmakers.

Those state lawmakers pushed legislation -- bills AB-1389 and AB-353 -- that aims to curb the millions of dollars that are made off the cars that are impounded at DUI checkpoints.

10News learned police are impounding more cars from sober drivers than drunken drivers at sobriety checkpoints, which earn tens of millions of dollars for California cities and law enforcement agencies.

A recent audit of state police agencies that receive grant money to run checkpoints found a discrepancy between the number of cars that are impounded and number of drivers arrested on suspicion of drunken driving.

10News found examples throughout San Diego County.

In Chula Vista, police made 105 DUI-related arrests at checkpoints last year but impounded 723 cars. Last year, in El Cajon, police arrested five drunk drivers at checkpoint but impounded 94 cars. Escondido impounded 654 cars but only made 56 DUI-related arrests during that same time period.

Escondido has one of the highest impound to DUI arrest ratios in the county. For every DUI arrest, police impounded 11.6 cars.

When asked if Escondido police try to make money off impound fees, Escondido police Lt. Craig Carter said, "Absolutely not. It's about the safety. It's always been about the safety."

Carter said his department impounds cars if a driver is drunk or driving with a suspended license. He said that could explain why there are many more impounded cars versus DUI arrests.

"Escondido has a higher number of unlicensed drivers based on the number of tows we appear to do," Carter said. "One of the ways we find that is through the DUI checkpoints."

Every year, the city of Escondido earns $100,000 from its towing service contract.

In Sacramento, state leaders worry that money from impound lots could breed corruption. They said it already happened in Bell, Calif., where city leaders were making millions partially from impound money.

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