By Jack Burns
As if traffic jams weren’t already a problem in California, the Highway Patrol is now conducting random “smog checkpoints” on the street. Thanks to citizen reporting by Ru’d Rubees, we now have the first images of how these new police state checkpoints operate.
California already has the strictest smog regulations in the country with the state implementing numerous laws to prevent carbon emissions originating from automobiles. Motorists are required to perform emissions inspections on their vehicles annually but California now has a new way to separate motorists from their hard-earned money by punishing offenders through random checkpoints.
According to the video, the California Highway Patrol is working with smog technicians to stop traffic—much like a DUI checkpoint—and they are forcing vehicles into a smog inspection lane set up on the street. Presumably, while there, technicians will check to see if the motorists’ smog devices installed on their cars are working properly, issue monetary fines if they’re not, and conceivably tow away any vehicle that does not pass the state’s strict smog regulations.
According to the California Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR), the organization responsible for conducting the smog checks, the roadside inspections are there to ensure CA motorists are complying with federal guidelines to reduce ozone emissions, and are only being conducted in areas in the state with the poorest air quality—Central, Bay, Los Angeles, Inland, and San Diego.
It is important to note that BAR says motorist participation is completely “voluntary,” and that “there are no consequences to consumers, regardless of their vehicle’s emission control equipment or its emission levels.”
But in reality, few CHP officers may know this fact, or even care about the bureau’s rules. Also, if a motorist attempted to drive by one without stopping for the officers, rest assured a chase would ensue. It may be helpful for California motorists to download and print a fact sheet from bar.ca.gov to keep in their car in an attempt to prevent being forced into compliance by a CHP officer.
Still, motorists are skeptical of any optional checkpoint that resembles and may be confused with a standard and equally inconveniencing DUI checkpoint. And many have already expressed skepticism. A resident named Edward Synicky said:
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I understand the reason behind DUI checkpoints and the need to randomly stop drivers, followed by a few short questions and a breath test so that officers can have probable cause to detain you. On two occasions in the last few weeks, I have seen the California Highway Patrol and other civilians apparently checking cars for smog-check compliance on Yorba Linda Boulevard in Yorba Linda. What law allows a CHP officer to order me to stop my travels and have my car hooked up to testing equipment? I have already paid for testing on my car as required. Why am I being detained and forced into this testing program? Where is the probable cause allowing for my day to be disrupted and my freedom of movement altered against my will? Can I simply refuse to participate and drive away? The presence of a peace officer certainly indicates I must comply.
The question was posed to the OCRegister and the response indicated, as stated earlier, participation in the smog checkpoint is voluntary. But Synicky indicated he was ordered to the roadside to comply with the checkpoint.
According to Police State USA, the checkpoints are not only needless, frustrating and angering to drivers, but more importantly, they impede their civil rights to be able to freely travel without unnecessary interruptions.
Not only do California residents already have to comply with biannual vehicle emissions inspections already—the results of which are tied to their vehicles’ registrations and driver’s licenses—but the State of California is already bankrupt and should not be spending the exorbitant amounts of money to employ BAR to conduct the checkpoints that critics contend further violate their civil rights. Police State USA noted:
It is remarkable that a state with such startling levels of outstanding debts can be spending money on frivolous things like this. But this is California we are talking about. No project is too absurd to spend taxpayers’ dollars on. In fact, if a driver fails emissions testing in California, they pay him to stop driving his vehicle, from $1,000 to $1,500, in what is referred to as a ‘vehicle retirement’ package.
Paying motorists to stop driving a car that fails emissions inspections smacks in the face of common sense. But Police State USA continued to criticize the program, writing that because of the redundancy of the testing and the lack of state funds, “one can only conclude that the California legislature wants to spend money it doesn’t have, and wants the public to grow accustomed to being flagged down by police in broad daylight for customary checkpoints.”
At The Free Thought Project has reported, sobriety checkpoints in California now use technology that allows police officers to see if an individual has THC, the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis, in their system—even if it is days old. While the test has absolutely zero ability to determine actual impairment or level of intoxication, it can tell whether the individual has had cannabis in their system in the last several days, which caters perfectly to the War on Drugs.
Such commonplace checkpoints set the stage for future and more controversial checkpoints such as immigration checkpoints (which already exist) and weapons checkpoints, which may be implemented in some form of Orwellian future.