Saturday, October 30, 2010

San Angelo checkpoint cites mostly economic crimes

DWI checkpoints are supposedly banned in Texas (or at least the legislation which would supposedly authorize them failed to pass in 2009) so I'm not sure how the Sheriff in San Angelo can justify checkpoints for insurance and drivers licenses - "Show me your papers, Comrade!" From the San Angelo Standard Times (Oct. 28):
More than one of every six vehicles stopped in a two-hour checkpoint in San Angelo on Wednesday morning received a citation, the San Angelo Police Department said.
The police, Tom Green County Sheriff’s deputies and San Angelo City Marshals conducted the checkpoint from 8:15 a.m. to 10:20 a.m. in the 300 block of East Avenue L, stopping 585 vehicles, said Lt, David Howard, a San Angelo police spokesman.

Citations included 50 tickets for no insurance, 28 for driver’s license violations, 24 for other violations such as expired or missing registration or inspection, and two warnings.

One driver was arrested on a misdemeanor marijuana possession charge, Howard said.
Consider: What does it say about the state of overcriminalization on the roadways that when you stop every car on the road, one in six are breaking the law? These are mostly economic crimes. It's a crime to fail to pay a private company for insurance. Many of those with driver's license violations likely lost their licenses thanks to onerous Driver Responsibility surcharges. And of course inspection and registration are both government-mandated fees (with inspection often including the cost of getting this or that defect on the car fixed before it will pass muster).

So you stop a bunch of people who already couldn't pay for insurance, surcharges, registration fees, vehicle repairs, etc., and lard on an added criminal penalty they likely also can't pay. That makes no sense from any perspective but revenue generation. It's no wonder they cited one in six drivers stopped, when you think about it. Employing these kind of tactics makes it less likely they can pay all the fees and penalties they already owe, manufacturing ever-more violators and building the pool for additional citations down the line like sort of a grotesque perpetual-motion machine.

Maybe the problem isn't all the lawbreakers but that there are too many damn laws and too much reliance on the criminal justice system to bleed drivers (read: taxpayers and voters) with citations and fines over economic crimes.


Anonymous said...

Yes but in Texas, there is a distinct posibility that you will be pulled over, your car searched illegally, the cops will lie on the stand, the prosecutor will phony up evidence (or hide it) all under the Judge's eye. A free (taxpayer funded) trip to Huntsville...

Kudos to Grits for all the great information. Change starts with an informed populace. Please keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...

From an answer the SAPD posted on facebook

", it is legal. Roadblocks, as they are referred to by the courts, fall under what is known as a special needs exception to the 4th Amendment. The special needs exception requires that the primary purpose of the search/seizure be for regulatory, not law enforcement, purposes. Drivers license/vehicle registration checkpoints are allowed because the purpose is to ensure motorists have complied with state licensing requirements."

rodsmith said...

maybe what needs to happen is when the little nazi's setup one of the illegal stops. all the cars stop and the drivers get out and beat the you know what out of the idots setting them up.

enough of them get put into a hospital their bosses will have a hard time finding someone to man them.

Anonymous said...

Oh good grief! You people are idiots! How much trouble is it to have a drivers license and insurance? There are border patrol checkpoints all over South Texas. No one complains about them! If I have to have a drivers license and insurance, then by God, the rest of the motorists out there need to have them too! I've never seen as many paranoid nut cases in my life! Y'all are living proof that smoking dope destroys brain cells! Watch out for those black helicopters! They are coming to get you! LMMFAO!!!

Anonymous said...

You complain about having to have insurance, but wait until you get hit by someone with out it, guess who pays to fix you, your passengers, and your car? No one!! What are you going to do, sue the driver? For what? They already can't afford insurance. What will you sue for? You will get nothing!!

Anonymous said...

If a checkpoint will keep people from driving who should not be, I am all for them!! Plus generating revenue keeps them from raising the already high tax rate.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

"How much trouble is it to have a drivers license and insurance?"

Since one in six drivers in this sample received citations, apparently just a little harder than your snarky response would indicate. Keep in mind more than a million drivers have lost their licenses over the Driver Responsibility surcharge. About 10% of TX drivers have outstanding arrest warrants.

"If a checkpoint will keep people from driving who should not be, I am all for them!"

That's the problem. They do not. All evidence shows that when people don't have insurance or lose their license, most keep driving. If it actually worked in practice, you might have a point. Instead, we've tried the enforcement only approach for years and about 1 in 4 Texas drivers overall have no insurance.

Just like with Obamacare for health insurance, forcing people to purchase private insurance doesn't work for those who can't afford it. And uninsured sick people who use trauma centers or spread disease cost others, too, just like uninsured drivers. So if you don't like Obamacare for health insurance, the same economic critique applies to how we handle auto insurance.

Anonymous said...

So Grits,

What is your solution?

Just let people drive around with no driver's license and no insurance?

There have to be consequences for violating the law,

You point out a lot of problems but are real short on solutions.

Anonymous said...

Long established case law that DL checkpoints are legal.

Shadowguv said...

This type of negative contact does nothing but generate ill will and bad feelings toward those who need our respect and support to function effectively. We all know it's designed to generate revenue. How far will Citizens allow their government to go?

Not a single felony arrest? One misdemeanor arrest out of 585 stops? Give me a break, what a poor use of manpower.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

7:43, There have been many possible solutions to these problems discussed on this blog over the years - I don't repeat them all every time the same subject comes up, but the enforcement-only approach isn't the only possible way to go.

I've long argued that if insurance will be required, drivers should pay for it at the pump through the gas tax so a) everyone is covered and b) everyone pays. Doing minimum liability through the private market simply hasn't worked in practice, however much you may like demagoguing about the 1/4 of noncompliant drivers. Another possible solution is to switch to no-fault insurance.

On DLs Texas judges have been arguing at the Lege to end most administrative license suspensions because they create more problems than they solve, particularly with the surcharge. So one way to have fewer unlicensed drivers it to take fewer licenses away. You say "there have to be consequences to violating the law"; I say laws must be rational if we want people not to violate them.

8:55 is right, this is a poor use of manpower when clearance rates for serious crimes are so low.

Anonymous said...

7:43, have you ever visited this blog before today? Grits just spent the last year convincing DPS to create an amnesty program so the million drivers who defaulted on their surcharges can get their licenses back, drive legally, get insurance, etc.. He's out there getting solutions enacted and meanwhile you're saying he doesn't have any. You may disagree with Henson, and I often do, but it's not as though he just criticizes without suggesting alternatives.

Anonymous said...

743 back,

So if they stopped the Admin suspensions and went to no fault insurance you would support DL checkpoints?

Anonymous said...

743 again,

Yes I do read this blog,

Sometimes Gritts has some good point like the Halloween Sex Checks, Pure PR Nonsense.

On some he fails to see that just being against something does not solve the problem.

To paraphrase Winston Churchill.

Its the absolute worst system, except for all the others we have tried,

Anonymous said...

743 once more,

Changing the Surcharge problem may be a good thing, only time will tell.

Some people should not be driving due to as they are not going to exercise the care to be safe for you and me.

If the surcharge program is not the tool to keep them off the road what is?

Long term solutions are needed not just Gritts running down the street saying the sky is falling.

Anonymous said...

Your Obamacare comparison does not work.

Car insurance in Texas is mandated to pay for the other person's injury and damage when you screw up.

Obamacare is for when you screw yourself up, so to speak. Notice the state does not require you to insure yourself. Just liability.

Anonymous said...

The police cannot make everyone happy. Regardless of whether the subject is checkpoints, searching vehicles, or responding to calls for service. Either we don't do enough to stop lawbreakers or we are the Gestopo and go to far. This really falls back on who you ask. The Liberals like Grits think we go to far, the conservative get tough crowd believe we are lax and don't do enough. To all those with complaints and no solutions put onthis uniform and lets see how good you do.

My solution to people who say writing tickets to those without insurance is just compounding the problem. I say impound the vehicle until proof of insurance is purchased. You will be surprised how fast they get insurance when they need their car out of impound, and if the vehicle is left in impound past 90 days it is sold.

I always find it funny how those without insurance can afford to put 3,000 dollars worth of wheels and 2,000 dollars worth of stero and DVD players in their vehicle but can't afford insurance. These are the same people who can afford to pay 10% of 5,000 dollar bond when they want out of jail.

In my opinion the vast majority of those without insurance can afford to purchase it. THEY JUST DON'T CARE TO DO SO and have the attitude of F**K IT, I DO WHAT I WANT TO DO.

How is that for get tough. Go ahead and say I am the Gestopo, but it is my solution to a problem that is not going to go away.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

7:43/10:38, no I still wouldn't support them. I think checkpoints waste resources when clearance rates for much more serious crimes are declining and there are more important ways to expend scarce police resources.

Also, IMO we don't need a tool to "keep them off the road" because people need to drive to work, etc.. Instead we need tools to keep drivers licensed and insured. In that respect, our goals are just different. I don't think punishment is as important for economic crimes as achieving the goal of maximizing the number of licensed and insured drivers. That's especially true when empirically the enforcement-only approach has failed so miserably - increasing the number of unlicensed uninsured drivers through surcharges, etc.. We just disagree.

@11:07, the example does work. Liability mandates force us to buy insurance from the private market and a quarter of drivers do not - when national healthcare kicks in expect similar noncompliance for exactly the same reason. I say if it's required, do it through the tax system so everybody's covered (which was Obama's original critique of Hillary's proposal which later became "his" plan). Just like with auto, the justification for Obamacare is that taxpayers pay for others' care anyway in much more expensive settings through emergency rooms, spread of disease, etc., so insuring everyone across the board would lower costs. Similarly, your auto insurance rates are higher than need be because 1/4 of drivers aren't in the pool. That's why I like the pay at the pump model - it would force everyone to buy insurance with a structural solution and eliminate (very high) enforcement costs. Every social problem can't be solved with cops, courts and criminal laws.

12:24, it's simply not about you so don't take things so personally. I realize since you have a job-stake in a failed system you naturally defend it. However, everyone's entitled to their own opinions but not their own facts. They impound vehicles in Dallas now - it hasn't made a dent in the problem because the scale is too vast. Also, when 1 in 4 drivers have no insurance, your snide stereotypes about $3,000 wheels, etc., really don't apply so sweepingly - that number gets you to a lot of average, working class folks. Bottom line: Your enforcement-only approach is what generated all the uninsured drivers, suspended DLs, etc. that you're complaining about, ironically. The system you support is the one producing the crappy results you decry but your only "solution" is to do more of the same, which is of course no solution at all.

Anonymous said...

I hardly doubt Scott Henson single-handedly struck down the DRP all by itself. That's been a motive by DPS and others for years. If they could get rid of that quagmire they'd probably be overjoyed.

Anonymous said...

Wow, that was a mouthful Grits, and now I suddenly feel obligated to chime in, I love this blog if you ever quit I’m suing.

To quote your words, I do not like to be (forced) to pay for insurance period. Not at the pump, not by government mandate; I do not like green eggs and ham.

(Texas Driver’s Responsibility Act) hmm… (United States Health Care Responsibility Act); call it what you like it’s all an act with the same horrible results.

Automobile insurance is quite a bit different than Obama-care or Hillary-care or any other government proposed care in that we are not (cared for) satisfactorily and the majority of Americans are actually afraid of what has happened. Government run (anything) is inefficient, ineffective and wasteful and that is an undisputed fact. The host of welfare and entitlement concerns that drive government fall into the category of (money grab) every bit as much as check-point traffic stops (comrade).

And, since this example was given I will expound by saying the difference is putting a band aid on a bruise and a band aid on a bullet wound. In one instance the band aid serves no purpose whatsoever and the bruise heals itself (car insurance), in the other it all depends on how healthy you are if you live or die (health insurance).

I do not agree with check-point of sale tactics to increase revenue; if someone is speeding or driving erratically or otherwise not in safety then pull them over and get out ticket book otherwise go after the bank robbers, it is a money grab plain and simple.

Anonymous said...

For those without insurance it is counterproductive to hit them with additional surcharges; they pay at the pump when they reach the municipal court. Instead of surcharges to increase revenue the idea is to get insurance, simple enough, the remedy is to get it and take the proof of doing so to the nearest DPS office. Failure to comply within a given period of time (10 days) like registration and inspection places an automatic suspension on driving privileges which are immediately reversed upon proof. Driving on a suspended license should be a trip to jail. While this may seem like a hardship the facts are still the facts, (you can’t drive without insurance) and it doesn’t matter if you pay at the pump or you pay it voluntarily with the exception that one is a free will choice and the other is not and that is more than enough information in order to determine (choice).

The statements of 12:24 hold more merit than you wish to acknowledge when comes to what is affordable and what is not in the priorities category. It is easy to challenge someone by claiming that they are a stakeholder and so therefore dismiss them as a bias view. On the other hand it might be worth mentioning that as a stakeholder their view may well be one of time and experience. The truth is we are all stakeholders and there is never an adequate excuse for lowering the price of steak or raising the price of hamburger to benefit one stakeholder at the expense of another, not in America (comrade).

We are being held hostage by government spending and that is an undisputed fact which is why the need for any extra tax of any kind should be vehemently challenged. We do not need more government control we need a more responsible government.

Anonymous said...

743 Again,

Grits, the problem with your approach is that if you are poor, or claim to be poor, there are no consequences for driving around town like an idiot and endangering the public.

At some point if someone continues to violate the rules there has to be a way at some point to at least attempt to ban them from the roads.

Anonymous said...

Coming and going in what police claim is the most dangerous driving city in Texas, (Tyler, where the police write twice as many tickets as anywhere else), I rarely see an accident or mishap. If 1/4 of the folks are driving without DLs it seems like it must be working. Maybe the rest of us should take them less seriously. Remember- before WWII hardly anyone had a DL, insurance, seat belts, safe cars or training and they seemed to survive. Maybe it's not as unsafe as you think out there.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

11:50 writes: "Government run (anything) is inefficient, ineffective and wasteful and that is an undisputed fact."

The question, I suppose, is compared to what? On health insurance, overhead costs (the amount spent on stuff other than claims) for Medicaid are around 1% compared to 15-20% for private health insurance. So it depends on your definition of "efficient." Given how many claims are successfully paid through Medicaid and Medicare, there's reason to believe this is a function the government is actually capable of.

When you think about auto insurance, all the money spent on advertising, redundant systems, etc., could reduce rates a lot of it were spent on service delivery. Add to that the fact that everybody would be in the insurance pool instead of leaving 1 in 4 out and your rates would become lower. If you're against mandatory insurance of any sort, that's a different question, but if it's to be mandated it's more "efficient" to do it through the mandatory part through the tax system.

7:43, is it more important to you that poor people be punished or that they have DLs and insurance? That's the question here. There are more effective ways to achieve the latter goal than relying solely on punishment.

10:49 writes: "I hardly doubt Scott Henson single-handedly struck down the DRP all by itself."

I couldn't agree more; notably the Texas Fair Defense Project helped tremendously. Also, the DRP wasn't "struck down," the agency just created Amnesty and Indigence programs. That said, DPS staff were earlier pushing a much narrower proposal creating only an Indigence program, and the commissioners told them to expand to do Amnesty after a public hearing. So it's not DPS staff so much as the commissioners to whom you should attribute the policy - far more than me. I did petition the agency for rulemaking last summer to start the process and worked with stakeholders in and out of the agency as the rules developed, but others, notably the commissioners did the most significant heavy lifting.

Success has a thousand authors, failure has but one. :)

Anonymous said...

To clarify my position my statement was, “To quote your words, I do not like to be (forced) to pay for insurance period. Not at the pump, not by government mandate; I do not like green eggs and ham.” I guess (period) would be the key word.

Regarding the efficiency of government using your example Medicare and Medicaid:

Without addressing the actual issue of (what kind of care) and only the issue of efficiency it takes all of two seconds on a search engine to find the inefficiencies of Medicare and Medicaid. However I’ll touch on a couple anyway for the readers.

New York City has seen an uptick in fraud in some specialties such as physical therapy, where one group in Brooklyn was recently found to have bilked Medicare out of about $72 million as reported on WebCPA September 22, 2010. The key words here being (one group).

Other recent articles complain of inefficient billing issues, another article states that the Medical Society of the State of New York announced that 1100 doctors had left the system due to problems with Medicare, there’s article after article after article.

To be fare I’m not suggesting that we scrap Medicare even though from the reality of our economic mess Medicare may very well become the last resort for the poor and provide the least as our Country begins to tackle the inevitable and citizens simply choose to self insure, but I do reiterate that big government is and has been the problem for decades.

Take mandated automobile insurance as a perfect example and see how it has actually become a government money grab which was the purpose of government in the first place. The no insurance ticket has escalated to “The Driver’s Responsibility Act” and we need to see your papers (comrade) and while we are at it we need to search your car, it’s the government and until we rein it back in it will grow and grow and grow.

Anonymous said...

Something that has not been addressed here is the capias profine warrant. The number of individuals within the 10% of overall Texans driving around with open warrants for class c misdemeanors could be significantly reduced and they would also be able to get their drivers licenses if these type of warrants were simply put back into the system.

Once found guilty of a class c misdemeanor the punishment is a fine and I believe in all cases a payment arrangement, I do not know of any court that does not offer payment arrangements.

However, if a person fails to make a payment or appear in court to request more time on the day they are required to either make a payment or appear in court to request an extension then a capias profine warrant is issued and the fine (must) now be paid in its entirety removing the installment payment as an option.

This creates a warrant or warrants that for a huge number of people is simply not possible to overcome. They can’t renew their license and the only option is to sit the time out in jail. In the majority of cases an arrest is made and the person sits out the time which cost taxpayers and offers no return.

This problem is easily remedied by simply allowing the person to begin installment payments again and upon doing so remove the warrant(s).

People really do not want to have warrants for their arrest and if given the choice they will readily do what is necessary to have them removed.

The problem is the same as always in that unless the policy consists of the carrot and stick there is no motivation to do anything. If the warrant isn’t issued then nothing will be done until something else occurs that requires the individual to not have a warrant like a driver’s license renewal or employment related problems or being required to show ID during jail visitation and even then when the only remedy is to pay in full it is simply not attainable and most people are not going to turn themselves in, they simply drive with a warrant or without a valid driver’s license.

Re-issuing the warrant at least gives them the option and a huge portion of these people will get back into the system and begin their installment payments again.