Archive for September, 2010

Arrested Driver Liable for Costs of Car Impound — Even if Not Guilty

Tuesday, September 7th, 2010

So you were arrested for drunk driving, and your car was impounded by the police.  And you had to pay a chunk of money to get your car back.  But you were later found not guilty of the offense, so you get it back, right? 


DUI Fees Still Apply if Driver Acquitted of DUI?

Riverside, CA.  Sept. 5
– Q:   The Aug. 2 column, dealing with the financial costs of a DUI conviction, prompted a related question from Murrieta resident Bill Albrant. Whhen someone is arrested on a DUI charge, their vehicle is impounded. They will have to pay at least $250 to retrieve it later, paying for the towing and the storage, according to the Insurance Information Network of California. Albrant asked what happens when someone is acquitted of the DUI charge.

A: Unfortunately, there's no clear answer about this, said Pete Moraga, spokesman for the network.

That's because there can be many reasons for a DUI acquittal. Proving you weren't guilty is only one of them. Others include cases in which the officer didn't show up in court or procedural problems with the case (for example, if the officer didn't read the defendant his Miranda rights).

"If it could be proven the driver was not impaired, there are more grounds to get your money back," Moraga said, "but the difficulty is, to what extent can you prove that?"

Meanwhile, regardless of whether someone is guilty of DUI, the towing company did tow and store your car and will require payment for that. Usually law enforcement agencies have contracts with towing and impound services.

Someone's ability to be reimbursed for their costs may depend on the contract between the police and the towing service, Moraga said. If the law enforcement agency is willing or able to absorb the impound costs, the acquitted individual may be in luck — but as Moraga noted, this is unlikely.


How can citizens found not guilty of a crime still forced to pay for costs of the arrest?  Oh, right, this is a drunk driving case.  And the municipalities get a chunk of those impound fees. 


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Big Brother Is Watching You

Friday, September 3rd, 2010

Although the following news story doesn’t directly involve DUI, I think it should be of concern to any citizen in this country who has the uncomfortable sense that our constitutional rights are slowly being whittled away and we are drifting toward a police state.


Court Allows Agents to Secretly Put GPS Trackers on Cars

CNN. Aug. 27
 –  Law enforcement officers may secretly place a GPS device on a person’s car without seeking a warrant from a judge, according to a recent federal appeals court ruling in California.

Drug Enforcement Administration agents in Oregon in 2007 surreptitiously attached a GPS to the silver Jeep owned by Juan Pineda-Moreno, whom they suspected of growing marijuana, according to court papers. When Pineda-Moreno was arrested and charged, one piece of evidence was the GPS data, including the longitude and latitude of where the Jeep was driven, and how long it stayed. Prosecutors asserted the Jeep had been driven several times to remote rural locations where agents discovered marijuana being grown, court documents show.

Pineda-Moreno eventually pleaded guilty to conspiracy to grow marijuana, and is serving a 51-month sentence, according to his lawyer.But he appealed on the grounds that sneaking onto a person’s driveway and secretly tracking their car violates a person’s reasonable expectation of privacy.

"They went onto the property several times in the middle of the night without his knowledge and without his permission," said his lawyer, Harrison Latto.

The U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the appeal twice — in January of this year by a three-judge panel, and then again by the full court earlier this month. The judges who affirmed Pineda-Moreno’s conviction did so without comment.

Latto says the Ninth Circuit decision means law enforcement can place trackers on cars, without seeking a court’s permission, in the nine western states the California-based circuit covers.

The ruling likely won’t be the end of the matter. A federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., arrived at a different conclusion in similar case, saying officers who attached a GPS to the car of a suspected drug dealer should have sought a warrant.  

Experts say the issue could eventually reach the U.S. Supreme Court.

One of the dissenting judges in Pineda-Moreno’s case, Chief JudgeAlex Kozinski, said the defendant’s driveway was private and that the decision would allow police to use tactics he called "creepy" and "underhanded."

"The vast majority of the 60 million people living in the Ninth Circuit will see their privacy materially diminished by the panel’s ruling," Kozinksi wrote in his dissent.

"I think it is Orwellian," said Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, which advocates for privacy rights.

"If the courts allow the police to gather up this information without a warrant," he said, "the police could place a tracking device on any individual’s car — without having to ever justify the reason they did that."

But supporters of the decision see the GPS trackers as a law enforcement tool that is no more intrusive than other means of surveillance, such as visually following a person, that do not require a court’s approval.

"You left place A, at this time, you went to place B, you took this street — that information can be gleaned in a variety of ways," said David Rivkin, a former Justice Department attorney. "It can be old surveillance, by tailing you unbeknownst to you; it could be a GPS."

He says that a person cannot automatically expect privacy just because something is on private property.

"You have to take measures — to build a fence, to put the car in the garage" or post a no-trespassing sign, he said. "If you don’t do that, you’re not going to get the privacy."

 
When did our right to privacy from governmental intrusion start depending on building fences?  And how long do you think even that minimal "privacy" will last?

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