Car Impoundment & Checkpoint Toolkit

Guide written and materials compiled by: Lucero Chavez Immigrants Rights Attorney ACLU of Southern CA

Car Impoundment and Checkpoint Toolkit Guide
The issue of car impoundments and checkpoints has been an important one for immigrant and low-income communities over the last several years. Although initially change was slow, a growing number of jurisdictions have now made effective policy choices related to their city practices and procedures. This guide serves both as a clearing house of existing policies, relevant legal materials, and helpful information as well as an attempt at compiling documents related to campaigns for the purposes of historical memory. This is a compilation of tools and resources created and expanded by a number of advocates and organizations throughout the state that have been effective in changing how their local departments interact with their communities. These groups include various affiliates of People Improving Communities through Organizing (PICO) California, Service, Immigrant Rights & Education Network (SIREN), the Los Angeles Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild (NLG), Mark Silverman and the Immigrant Legal Resource Center (ILRC), the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights (LCCR), the Northern California and San Diego affiliates of the ACLU and the California Immigrant Policy Center (CIPC). This guide is meant to provide information to individuals and community groups about what they need to know to run similar campaigns in their cities in hopes of adopting just and humane policies while keeping their communities safe. Please understand that this guide is meant to be comprehensive and may contain more materials that what your local community may need but is here nonetheless for your reference. The section summaries below will help guide you to determine where your community fits, what you need, and what is most relevant to your local efforts and goals.

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WHAT’S IN THIS GUIDE Section 1: Relevant Cases and Codes Ingersoll Michigan v. Sitz Miranda California Vehicle Code Section 2: Getting Information California Public Records Act request overview and examples Section 3: Knowing Your Rights Materials created by the ACLU/SC and other partners like the National Lawyers Guild Relevant memo’s from CA Peace Officers Association Counsel Section 4: Policy Recommendations and Issues Reports and memos from various organizations related to the constitutionality of checkpoints and car impoundments Specific policy recommendations provided by various organizations related to checkpoints and car impoundment policies Section 5: Local Advocacy and Organizing Identified successful strategies in previous campaigns City council resolutions Helpful news stories Section 6: City Policies Language and guides from cities that have already changed policies and practices in their cities Section 7: Monitoring and Data Collection Sample intake forms and monitoring guides Section 8: Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) and California Highway Patrol (CHP) Policies, Procedures and Funding Organization manuals and procedures Guidelines for grants and sample application Section 9: Helpful and Unhelpful Studies and Publications Studies done locally and investigations looking at practices statewide Section 10: Miscellaneous Drivers License issues, information on impound hearings and other relevant topics Statewide campaign messaging and fact sheets (2011 - AB 1389) Page 2 of 6


This guide is broken down into several sections, to make it more manageable for advocates who may just be starting out with their campaigns. The scope covers an initial and basic understanding of the relevant law around checkpoints and car impoundments, how to understand current city and department policies, and existing policies and recommendations on advocacy moving forward. No matter where you are, what community you’re in or what region you represent, there are likely others nearby who want similar change. Do not be afraid to reach out and ask for help, there may already be a campaign nearby.

Section 1: Relevant Cases and Codes In order to determine where to begin it is important for advocates to know what has come before. A law enforcement agency must show a legal basis in order to conduct a checkpoint or impound a car. The first two cases listed below, one from the California Supreme Court and one from the US Supreme Court, govern checkpoints conducted by local law enforcement and set constraints on that enforcement. To understand the legal basis and the limitations within which local law enforcement must operate, it is important for advocates to have at least a basic understanding of the cases outlined below. California Supreme Court: Ingersoll v. Palmer (1987) 43 Cal.3d 1321 US Supreme Court: Michigan State Police v. Sitz (1990) 496 U.S. 444 US Court of Appeals, 9th Circuit: Miranda v. City of Cornelius (2005) 429 F.3d 858 The California Vehicle Code ( is also an important starting point for advocates. There are certain provisions that will be cited often by local police, advocates, and policy makers and in order to keep up in those conversations you should be familiar with at least the provisions listed below. In 1994, after a social security number became a requirement for obtaining and renewing a driver’s license in California, thousands were left without the ability to be properly licensed because of their legal status. 1 This


CVC 12801.5

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is an important issue because as you will see in later sections, unlicensed drivers are often put in the same category as people who have suspended or revoked licenses. Division 6 of CA Vehicle Code: Driver’s Licenses excerpts of following sections (full sections available on website listed above) o CVC 12500: Unlawful to Drive Unless Licensed o CVC 12801: Social Security Number Required o CVC 12951: Possession of License o CVC 14601: Driving When Privilege Suspended or Revoked o CVC 14602.6: Vehicle Impoundment: Suspended, Revoked or Unlicensed Driver: Hearing o CVC 14607.6: Impoundment and Forfeiture of Motor Vehicles Section 2: Getting Information Both federal and California laws provide individuals with the right to access information kept by local public government agencies. The California Public Records Act (CPRA) was signed in 1968 and although it contains exceptions within the Act as to what information the public can access, it is a good tool in local advocacy. In this section you will find a short overview of the Act, its purpose and how it can help you find the information you need to keep your city accountable and/or persuade your departments to change their policies. Section 3: Knowing Your Rights While reading cases and understanding the law overall and the policies in your city specifically is important, it is also crucial to know how to protect yourself on a day to day basis. In this section you will find two brochures, one catered to advocates hoping to begin a campaign or organize in their city and one catered to people in the community who want to know how to protect themselves. You will also find additional information provided by key community groups who are working on changing their city policies. Additionally you will be able to see specifically what the lawyers of local law enforcement are saying about their authority. Section 4: Policy Recommendations and Issues Immigrant and low income communities have long been affected by police checkpoints and the impoundment of their cars; therefore there are a number of resources where advocates have outlined proposals and ideas to balance the interests of the community with that of law enforcement. Because there is case law on the subject and attorneys for police departments have issued their interpretations of the law, legal advocates have also stepped in to provide guidance. In this section you will find recommendations, policy proposals and alternatives as well as model policies proposed and adopted in various cities.

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Section 5: Local Advocacy and Organizing Although there are legal opinions and letters on the subject, it is also important to see what strategies have worked, what best practices have been identified, and what the experts (community members on the ground in local communities) have said and done on their campaigns. This section includes resolutions passed by city councils, reports by community and faith based organizations, and memos posing additional questions on the topic. Additionally, this section contains relevant news stories from throughout the state. Section 6: City Policies Local officials often feel more comfortable considering a policy change if you can point to other cities that have passed or enacted similar policies to the ones you are proposing. In this section you will find the language of actual policies existing and enacted in various communities, as well as law enforcement advisories for the community meant to explain the policy changes and their rationales. We hope this will inspire your elected officials to take a stand! Section 7: Monitoring, Data and Story Collection Once you are informed about your city’s policies, what other cities have done and how to organize effective campaigns, you want to make sure you have some concrete leverage in your own community. If you suspect the law is not being applied consistently or even followed, you will want to document those cases that you hear. In many of the communities that have changed their policies, story-telling was instrumental. To make these stories effective in our advocacy we must document them. In this section you will find sample intake sheets, monitoring guides, and additional information to help you collect important data in your community. Section 8: OTS and CHP Policies, Procedures and Funding There are a number of key players in the checkpoint and car impoundment world, not least important of which are the funders. The Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) provides mini grants to local law enforcement agencies to carry out specified checkpoints. With these grants do come restrictions, and it is important for you to know what they are in order to hold your local agency accountable. The California Highway Patrol (CHP) is also a key player in this issue so it is important to have a big picture view of how this state agency handles checkpoints and car impoundments. Section 9: Helpful and Unhelpful Studies and Publications The goal is that after reviewing this guide you will have a complete set of documents and tools to begin, continue or expand your advocacy efforts. That said, there have been some works published, and investigations done, around the data that supports and rebuffs the rationale behind our State’s and specific cities’ checkpoint and impound policies. In this section you will find, among other publications, references to the often cited and still controversial AAA studies that discuss the dangers of unlicensed drivers and counter works done by members of the community and press. Page 5 of 6

Section 10: Miscellaneous This section includes other sample tools and resources that will be helpful in your own city’s campaign as well as materials on issues that may be related, (information on driver’s license questions, investigations done by the California Attorney General, sample impound hearing request form, etc.). Additionally, in this section you will find educational materials including talking points and fact sheets related to California legislation being considered in the 2011 session around car impoundments and checkpoints, (Assembly Bill 1389 introduced by Assembly Member Michael Allen).

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