Friday night's DUI/license checkpoint on Fourth Street in front of the Safeway shopping center in Santa Rosa. Click to enlarge. Road Warrior photo

The first indication of Friday night’s DUI/license checkpoint in Santa Rosa were the half dozen or so protesters holding reflective signs saying “RETEN” in Spanish for checkpoint.

But before drivers knew it, they were being funneled amid flashing police lights into one lane on eastbound Fourth Street in front of the Safeway shopping center.

A line of police officers from various local cities greeted them, checking each of the 1,550 drivers stopped for signs of impairment from alcohol or drugs and for valid licenses. Those suspected of DUI or license violations were directed off the road into a parking lot for further investigation.

Friday night’s checkpoint was part of a two-week, anti-DUI crackdown being carried out the Sonoma County’s Avoid the 13 task force that goes through Labor Day.

The checkpoint began around 6 p.m. and at about 8:30 officers arrested their first DUI suspect, a 57-year-old Santa Rosa man. He failed a preliminary alcohol test and refused to take a chemical test, thus automatically causing his license to be suspended for one year by the DMV. About an hour later, a second man, a 30-year-old from New York, became the second and last DUI arrest of the night. Both were determined to have blood alcohol levels of more than twice the legal limit.

The checkpoints are controversial. For some, they don’t like the idea of being stopped by police, saying it’s unconstitutional, although the courts have ruled them legal. Organizers of the sign protests have said they don’t object to the DUI crackdown but to the arrests of unlicensed drivers, many who are illegal immigrants prohibited from having driver’s licenses and often wind up having their cars impounded.

Petaluma Police Sgt. Ken Savano, coordinator of the Avoid the 13 campaign, says the checkpoints serve more as an educational tool to publicize the dangers of drunken driving than actually netting many DUI suspects. He’s hoping sober drivers will see the checkpoints and will be scared about drinking and driving.

He said people take it for granted that they can drive down local roads and don’t realize that a crash can happen in a second. And when you add alcohol to the mix, it increases the risk, he said.

Friday’s checkpoint, which ended at midnight, followed one Thursday on Stony Point Road near West Ninth Street in Santa Rosa where three drivers were arrested on suspicion of DUI. Fifteen drivers were arrested for being unlicensed, three for suspended licenses and one on a warrant.

As of after Friday night’s checkpoint, the Avoid the 13 campaign reported it had arrested a total of 13 people at four checkpoints for DUI and 121 others for DUI by officers on roving patrols during the current crackdown. In addition, five people were arrested for violating their DUI probations and 24 were arrested on DUI warrants.

Most of the arrests at the checkpoints have been for driving without a license. On Friday night, six were arrested for without a license, four for suspended licenses and one for possession of illegal drugs.

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  1. j.c

    This sends a horrible message to the country. pretty soon Beautiful Sonoma county is going to be know as a dirty drunk. with the latest report saying that we are the 4th safest in the state. kind of makes me wonder if Police Savano has an agenda…

    after all if drunks is what you want Mr. savano. all you have to do is have checkpoints on the Drunk driving fest also known as the Butter and eggs parade.

    September 3rd, 2011 7:57 am

  2. bobby

    It sounds like the people with the “Reten” signs are helping to make this program successful. It is, afterall, called “Avoid the Thirteen”.

    September 3rd, 2011 8:37 am

  3. Tom H.

    Wait, let me get this straight….The protesters have no problem with the DUI crackdown, but take issue with ILLEGALS with no license or registration having their cars impounded?

    And this sits well with the fine people of Sonoma County? Blind fools.

    September 3rd, 2011 8:40 am

  4. Tax Payer

    This was the stupidest DUI checkpoint I have ever had to go through. Hundreds of cars turning on side streets before the check point and driving through the Safeway parking lot avoiding the checkpoint altogether. Having the checkpoint on one side of the road? What about the drunkies leaving the Flamingo heading downtown to finish the night? What about the people on their cell phone seconds after going through the checkpoint warning people about the checkpoint, with dozens of cops 10 feet away?! If this is going to be an effective checkpoint the people organizing it should really think things through. The police could have made more arrests for cell phone use while driving and avoiding the checkpoint than for the 2 DUI’s mentioned here. The message that came across to me is that if I were drunk I could have easily avoided the checkpoint & warned all my drunk friends about it too.

    September 3rd, 2011 8:49 am

  5. Capttan Kona

    It is a violation of State Law to stop someone just to ask for their drivers license, period.

    The DUI check points were found Constitutional by a divided court, 5-4, with the majority acknowledging the fourth amendment violations. However, ignoring Benjamin Franklin’s warning on security and liberty, the court let the immediate need of stopping the scourge of drunk driving trump our rights.

    However, once you have passed the DUI portion, your rights are whole and the police do not have the authority to ask for your drivers license. Doing so is a violation of state law.

    September 3rd, 2011 9:47 am

  6. Clarke Davis

    “Petaluma Police Sgt. Ken Savano, coordinator of the Avoid the 13 campaign….”
    “He’s hoping sober drivers will see the checkpoints and will be scared about drinking and driving.”
    Hoping people will be scared? That’s Terrorist language right there folks.

    September 3rd, 2011 10:05 am

  7. Mike

    Protesters are having a problem ILLEGALS being stopped and arrested???? Could some one publish a book on the laws it’s OK to break and the ones I have to take seriously. What is this world coming to???

    September 3rd, 2011 10:42 am

  8. Karen

    This does NOT send a “horrible” message to the county! It shows we care, and actually have a police force that is willing to uphold the LAW!!!! I hope you arrest a whole lot of drunks and those who think they have some right to drive without a license! I would NEVER mind stopping because I have nothing to hide! Do you!!!!

    September 3rd, 2011 11:22 am

  9. joe

    Before moving to Ca. I was stopped by cops one time in 30 years, since moving here four years ago I’ve been stopped nine times.

    At what price freedom? At what point have you had enough?

    When the returns from dui arrests got so low people complained, they now check for licenses, and loudly report the new statistics.

    And they’ve greatly increased ticket writing for minor infractions, as well as doubling and tripling the fines.

    Bleat like a sheep.

    September 3rd, 2011 11:45 am

  10. Bryan

    For all you guily drunks out there. I hope you all get caught. I appreciate the police dept trying to get your drunken A@@ off the road. I feel safer with these checkpoints and more so on the holiday weekends. Alot of you’s don’t have any respect for driving. Remember it is a privilege to drive not a right! And for all you ILLegels you need to think about driving if you don’t have a license.

    September 3rd, 2011 12:07 pm

  11. Rex

    What Mike said. No wonder we are turning into a 3rd world nation. No other country would roll over like this and flush their own country down the drain. We deserve everything we are getting.

    September 3rd, 2011 12:22 pm

  12. joseph donegan

    They should have the checkpoint in this location again, only add Motor cycle officers to track down and stop the cars avoiding the check point by driving through the safeway parking lot or turning off onto a side street. Unlicensed drivers need to be removed from the road, after all this is safety checkpoint and the number one rule in equipment safety is if you have not been trained on the equipment you are not to touch it period, We just had the death of a four year old boy by an unlicensed driver and many others.

    September 3rd, 2011 12:38 pm

  13. j.c

    for those claiming this is just a “holiday thing” you forgot to read thursday’s DUI checkpoint report where the press democrat clearly states that that it was the 100th checkpoint THIS YEAR. am glad the economy is flourishing and that the citi of santa rosa can afford to pay all this EXTRA cops. The Press Democrat keeps claiming the “GRANT” pays for this. BUT what about the overtime and benefits and pensions this EXTRA employees collect? who covers the tab? WE DO.

    September 3rd, 2011 1:17 pm

  14. joseph donegan

    It is the 100th checkpoint in the entire county.
    The real cost is of course when one of these unlicensed or drunk drivers kill someone and are sent to State Prison. Think Jose Miguel Botello-Soto who drove the wrongway up the 101 off ramp at Old redwood Highway in Healdsberg, Killing a wonderful young girl.
    The Cost to house the Illegal Immigrants in State Prison just from Little Sonoma County is like $108,000,000.00 a year. Costs that could of been avoided if the cars are impounded and their drivers removed from the road.

    September 3rd, 2011 1:28 pm

  15. Will

    I too was stopped and told to park in a parking lot, I played golf and had 1 lite beer bout 4pm ( it was hot out there) the offcer was sure he had one, all those dummy tests than he pulls out the breath thing, why didn’t he just start with the breath thing, would have save me 15 minutes of being very cold. he was so dissapointed when he didn’t get to arrest me. didn’t believe a thing I said, acted like I was criminal. How much of the county money they spent to nab two DUIs
    as their were bout 50 officers just standing around, they should try aressting real criminals

    September 3rd, 2011 2:03 pm

  16. j.c

    hahah nice try. but 98% of the checkpoints are in santa rosa/petaluma. if the county had corrals than YES you may have a point BUT the 30 day impounds only benefit the TOW COMPANIES (who by the way are making themself rich and using part of that money to lobby the police to continue violating the 4th admenment) i did bring to the attention of the mayor of santa rosa the necesity for santa rosa to have it’s own corral and his answear was simple “Special interest groups won’t let me”. Illegals DO PAY taxes and benefits into the system so you can sleep well knowing that is not your money going to fun this programs.
    Yes we all make driving mistakes EVERYBODY DOES. don’t believe me? just ask that cop that hit the poor kid on the southwest area of santa rosa. (this was just months ago, reffer to it on this site) he was ON THE PEDESTRIAN WALKWAY WITH THE LITTLE NEON MAN SAYING WALK… the police said he was on a emergency call which by the way turnout to a false statement.

    September 3rd, 2011 2:16 pm

  17. kpack

    It is very scary that more than half of these people agree with this. The general public has been so conditioned to accept these police state tactics by telling them it is good for you. Every time we lose another one of our rights it is because it is ‘good for you’. wake up to the fear method our gov’t employs to take away your rights!!

    September 3rd, 2011 2:26 pm

  18. Susan

    I would like to know why the people warning motorists are not given a citation for interfering with police business??

    September 3rd, 2011 2:28 pm

  19. OldAsDirt

    We don’t license drivers to get better ID. We license to ensure skills sufficient to perform tasks safely and in a manor compliant with our laws. Illegals have already demonstrated disinterest in complying with our laws. Drunks have reduced their skills thereby making themselves out of compliance with the law. Driving unlicensed is obviously out of compliance.

    The country’s citizens are the only ones who get to set standards codified by our laws. Few citizens who aren’t drunk and are licensed are concerned by checkpoints. Perhaps we could come up with a process where those who ARE concerned could have a legal “out”, but until then the checkpoints are a good tool to help those concerned about safety and the law.

    September 3rd, 2011 4:27 pm

  20. j.c

    CHECK POINTS ARE NOT A GOOD TOOL Because they are not as effective as regular patrolling. time after time this has been the case when it comes to drunk driving. average of 14 people get cought (when regular patroling is enforce) and ONLY 4 on Checkpoints.
    People With signs are not ticketed because a little thing called “FREEDOM OF SPEECH”
    But don’t worry this will soon change.. when the police makes you believe that freedom of speech is not good for you

    September 3rd, 2011 5:18 pm

  21. will





    September 3rd, 2011 6:15 pm

  22. Ken Briggs

    make the drunks , pay for the police time and for the stay at the county hotel and make them take a drug test weekly for the next five years . send all illegals back home. we do not need to support the illegals. should have more check points

    September 3rd, 2011 6:40 pm

  23. joseph donegan

    You’re funny.
    #1 Your statements lack integrity since you are unwilling to post your name and stand behind your statements.
    #2 Your statement are false and prone to hyperbola
    ie. 98% are held in santa rosa/petaluma: that says that two were held in other cities, since more than that number has been held in Healdsberg alone, the statement is clearly false.
    # 3 Your spelling and grammar is worse than mine, you should write your comments in word, and then copy and paste, it will give you more integrity on the web.
    #4 Have a nice day, You ruined mine!

    September 3rd, 2011 6:47 pm

  24. Elizabeth Johnson

    People complain about “illegals” driving without a license and get angry about an unlicensed driver killing a boy. Did those same people get made when they drank wine that those “illegals” helped produce? Do any of you have your older relatives in a car home where those “illegals” take care of them?
    Did you all get made when a licensed driver in Cloverdale killed an elder man, didn’t even stop to see if he was okay because he was too busy playing basketball? Then he just got a slap on the wrist. What about the girl texting who killed a child and injured her mother-she had a license did you get angry then? What about a cop who ran over a kid on Sebastopol Rd? Accidents can happen to licensed and unlicensed drivers.

    September 3rd, 2011 6:52 pm

  25. jamison


    September 3rd, 2011 7:09 pm

  26. richard

    this is bussines towing companies and police getting money. bussines

    September 3rd, 2011 7:12 pm

  27. Oops

    Elizabeth what’s your point?

    September 3rd, 2011 8:02 pm

  28. joseph donegan

    You are forgetting the number one rule in equipment safety. ” If you are not trained in the operation a machine, you are not to touch it period” Also remember that a hit and run causing death, only yields and average sentence of four years. Now that time will be served in local jails.
    As a society, we hold people who stand up to their actions higher than those who run and hide. We have the integrity of the uniform, And we have that obligation as Moral citizens to give consideration to other in regard to our own conduct.
    Here is a link to a video that will enlighten you as to the conduct of our youth http://www.hulu.com/watch/62974/hazeur youth.
    It will explain my feelings on the wineries.

    September 3rd, 2011 9:04 pm

  29. vale

    do you peaple see how you hate each other over things we can’t
    control?.illegal. peaple, peaple with no license. drunk drivers.peaple
    talking on the phone while driving.peaple tha dont stop at stop signs or respect the speed limits etc. can this things make you hate peaple,
    well if you can do something about it doit but please dont hate peaple
    that make you bad person. dont we all humans and with lives to lived

    September 3rd, 2011 9:18 pm

  30. Ali Carter

    We stand in line at the bank, at the grocery store, at DMV, at the movies, at Starbucks, etc. I went through the check point and it took 3 1/2 minutes to sit calmly in your car. Isn’t it worth it to safe someones life? Is 3 1/2 minutes that important to you?

    September 4th, 2011 4:15 am

  31. rick

    Any one who thinks that DUI checkpoints are a waste of time have never lost a friend or family member because of a drunk driver. Enough said!

    September 4th, 2011 7:30 am

  32. David

    This is a violation of our 4th amendment rights. When are Americans going to see the bigger picture here; our freedom when do we say enough is enough. Do we ban all skateboard because a boarder gets killed? Do we put up fences on all bridges because people jump off them, do we ban sports because some people get killed, do we stop the freedom of speech because it has hurt someone, I mean when do we draw the line and say enough is enough. The DUI check points cost a lot more money that it is netting. There is always going to be some bad apples that spoil the buch, dont take away our rights because of some bad apples. Perhaps we should just stop selling Alcohol.

    September 4th, 2011 7:33 am

  33. OldAsDirt

    JC, do you think any of these violators would have been caught had there been no checkpoint? Do you think if they weren’t alert enough to understand they were violators approaching a checkpoint, that they have enough awareness to be on the road?

    September 4th, 2011 3:01 pm

  34. Rex Faktor

    Don’t think towing companies “get rich” off impounding the low-dollar vehicles most illegals drive. If we tow a 1989 Honda Accord with 343,000 miles on it, bald tires, and no radio and no one comes to pick it up, how “rich” do you think that makes someone? The junk yard might pay $100-200 for it for scrap. The police get no release fees, and the tow yard basically breaks even on the expense of towing, storing, and doing a lien on the junker. It generates work, but little profit. Towing the car is attacking the problem on the wrong end – a waste of time for the cop and the tow yard.

    Why is someone with no valid license buying gasoline, people? This is where the problem gets solved more effectively – at the gas pump.

    For that matter, why does an “illegal”, not able to work legally in this country, need a car so badly to get to “work”?

    September 4th, 2011 8:11 pm

  35. j.c

    You are forgetting the number one rule in equipment safety. ” If you are not trained in the operation a machine, you are not to touch it period” -joseph.

    Would that also apply to the Bart officer who shot and killed a black man in the back and got away with it? or is that lil’ funny quote just to be used on migrant workers?

    I think MORE violators would be caught since CHECKPOINTS ARE NOT AS AFFECTIVE as regular patrolling.

    if it makes you guys feel better. 2 LICENSED drivers where caught drivinng drunk and Illegals got their car impounded. WINNING!

    September 5th, 2011 10:03 am

  36. R. HONSA

    Lincenced drivers have accidents & un-licenced drivers are comitting a crime , there is a difference Elizabeth.And yes those things you mentioned did upset me , and I don’t drink wine but I also feel the wineries hiring the illegals should be fined / shut down . They need to get legal or GO HOME !

    September 5th, 2011 10:29 am

  37. joseph donegan

    Rex, you are making too much sense. The most recent article on this topics quotes a statistic that an unlicensed driver is 4.5 times more likely to be involved in a fatal collision. I think of the loved ones we have lost, and how easily is could of been avoided. The tow yards may not be making any money: but as a society we are reaping huge gains in human lives.

    September 5th, 2011 11:13 am

  38. Bob Newkirk

    The checkpoints are a needed tool. Sonoma County has become far too lenient on those that break the laws. This includes unlicensed drivers that inherently have no insurance and happen to predominantly be illegal aliens. Supporting these same people is the flaw of Sanctuary Cities. These same supporters are fine with the general public paying for their support, but are not willing to step up and take them Home to offer up personal responsibility for those that they deem need it. Hmmm, sounds like a Liberal Ideology: “Everyone but me”.

    September 5th, 2011 12:11 pm

  39. Ron Brown

    Checkpoints are really a sticky point. Nobody should ever drive impaired under alcohol or otherwise (like prescription drugs!). Anyone who is reading this needs to make this a consideration anytime you are going to a party and there is alcohol and driving involved. As for the checkpoints, not really convinced of the effectiveness. First the police are asking you questions in your car, then searching your body in airports. What is next, asking you for your “papers” while walking down the street? Safety is good, but one cannot ignore the city/county budget problems, the “grants” to conduct these operations and the ongoing profit centers for all involved (except the person paying the “fees”)-I agree there will always be people who drink and drive regardless of the law. But when it comes to my own personal safety, I would rather maintain my constitutional rights and use situational awareness to stay out of harms way. Do we really need law enforcement telling us everything we can and connot do in the form of penalties and fines, I smell a profit incentive…

    November 19th, 2011 11:05 am

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