Saturday, August 16, 2008

Oceanside, California Dishes Out Abusive, Predatory Towing At Traffic Checkpoints


Flickr.com photo

Two things Oceanside, California has in common with Escondido.

1.) Both cities have traffic checkpoints where the vehicles of uninsured, unlicensed drivers are seized for excessive periods of time and sums of money.

2.) Both cities like to "prettify" their city hall buildings. Check out the image above! Way to go, Oceanside!

But in regard to seizing vehicles, this article...

...tells the tale of Oceanside resident Tammy Bridges, who seems to be a bit of a space cadet. A stay-at-home mother of two, she didn't bother to renew her drivers license despite getting a routine renewal notice in the mail. About four months later, she discovered her mistake at a traffic checkpoint.

Bridges was told her vehicle was going to "car jail." Because she was alone, police confiscated her vehicle, forcing the 41-year-old mother to walk two miles. (If another licensed driver had been along, that person could have taken the car home)

To make the situation worse, Space Cadet Tammy managed to ignore another piece of paperwork which arrived in the mail: new charges for driving without a license. Fees racked up once again before she discovered her mistake. Now Tammy's husband is in charge of the household paperwork.

Tammy's family isn't struggling too much, economically, despite the tough economy. They managed to handle the costs of the misadventure without resorting to credit cards. Just barely.

Yet because of her experience, Tammy sees how the costs of vehicle seizure could be devastating for struggling families. The story also sparked quite an interesting online discussion about the issues associated with the checkpoints and vehicles being seized and towed away. Here is my sifting to pull out the "virtual wheat" from the internet chaff.

* "Bob" said the fees for various infractions are crazy, and for $60 to $70 you could "truly feed a family for a week."

* A poster called "Government Thugs" said it was more cost effective to drive a "desposable" [sic] junker. If the police seize it, let them keep it.

* A pster called "Hmmm" agreed Tammy was irresponsible, but the fees and fines in California are "way out of hand." Gouging people for little mistakes tears down everybody's faith in the system.

* After a storm of blogging about "no license, no insurance" a guy who claimed to actually be an insurance against said his policies cover the car, not the driver. So claiming Tammy was driving around without insurance probably wasn't even true. Another blogger said the better solution would have been issuing Tammy a "fix it" ticket and letting her go.

* A poster named Mya related the following horror story where only the towing company managed to get rich: Her husband went to traffic court in Hemet, California, for a traffic violation. The violation was dismissed and he walked out of court with his paperwork.

A couple months later--on an Easter Sunday--he was stopped at a checkpoint and told his license had been suspended for failure to appear in court. Naturally, he protested this had to be some kind of mistake. Quite clearly, he remembers an officer saying "If it is indeed a mistake by the DMV or the courthouse, you will be reimbursed by the police department."

You can guess the rest. Some clerk had forgotten to complete the paperwork at the courthouse. But did the guy get reimbursed for getting his car towed? He did not. The police department refused his claim and told him to "give up" because his claim would be denied "each time."

Total cost for being an innocent driver at a checkpoint: One day of lost wages, $500 in towing and storage fees.

* One poster claimed the checkpoints seize and have towed as many as 30 cars in one day, and claimed this adds up to about $45,000 if the vehicles are held for 30 days.

2 comments:

Albany Lawyer said...

Interesting blog you've got there. I'm wondering if you'd be willing to take a look at my website - a traffic court directory that seems relevant - and let me know what you think of it. -- wredlich@gmail.com

Johnny T. Utopia said...

Hey, I did check out your website. Visually, it is "no frills" but I see you're pulling together a useful directory. People need something like that. Keep up the great work.