Monday, May 10, 2010

Chico California DUI police face lawsuit because police officers have called for emergency response back-up after pulling over suspected drunk drivers

Chico California DUI police face lawsuit because police officers have called for emergency response back-up after pulling over suspected drunk drivers.

DUI suspects were then unfairly and/or unreasonably billed for the extra help. A recent lawsuit is challenging that questionable practice.

The Chico Municipal Code says, in part, that cost recovery fees for convicted drunk drivers are legitimate because just collecting when a drunk driver is involved in an incident, as required by state law, is insufficient because the apprehension and arrest of all drivers under the influence of alcohol or any drug are expensive and time-consuming, even though they may not require an emergency response.

The city of Chico has been named in a class-action lawsuit filed in Santa Clara County that says the city illegally collects emergency response costs in connection with drunk-driving arrests.

Los Gatos attorney Bradley C. Arnold filed the suit that says Chico is one of at least two dozen towns, counties and cities that are illegally collecting the costs.

In a letter to some local attorneys, Arnold says that cities like Chico billing people for costs of law enforcement under circumstances where no actual emergency response was made.

For years Chico has enforced a policy whereby, whenever a city cop comes across a suspected drunk driver, he or she calls for an emergency response, meaning more officers are called in and the suspect, if convicted, is eventually billed for their time.

In the fiscal year ending June 30, 2001, Chico garnered almost $70,000 from those convicted of DUI where city police responded and made the arrest. At that time the cost was $27.13 per officer for the first 30 minutes and 90 cents per minute after that.

The suit currently names about 24 cities and three collection agencies as defendants in the suit, and there are 12 plaintiffs and 10 attorneys involved thus far.

Legislative history [of the emergency response costs] says it was meant to compensate a city for extra costs involved in an accident, Arnold explained. Things like directing traffic or laying out flares. It certainly doesn't apply to someone pulled over for a broken taillight and that the officer suspects may have been drinking.

He said in a city the size of San Jose, which has on average 3,000 DUIs per year, the city can collect as much as $1 million in emergency costs related to DUI stops.

Arnold said most people who get arrested for DUI have never gone through a criminal process before, beyond a simple traffic ticket. They suddenly get all of this criminal paperwork, including this bill from the city that say you must pay this by law,and they do not question it, so that's absolutely illegal.

Arnold is quick to point out that he does not advocate DUI by any stretch of the imagination.

And in fact, he said, the negative stigma that comes with DUI probably helps pave the way for cities to collect such revenue because the accused simply want to get on with their lives and put such matters behind them.

Arnold contacted California DUI defense attorneys including the legendary William Mayo and the living-legend California DUI criminal lawyer Joe Van Dervoort, both of whom represent clients accused of DUI.

Stop this nonsense California DUI municipalities!