MADD-Backed Ignition Interlock Mandate Wrong for California

Drunk driving2After nearly a decade of activists working to pass a law mandating installation of ignition interlock devices (IID’s) in the cars of anyone convicted of a DUI, success appeared imminent — until a couple weeks ago.

Senate Bill 1046 has been positively flying through the Assembly — enjoying the kind of unanimous support reserved for feel-good legislation pushed by a group no one wants to oppose.

It’s almost as if Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and its allies in the Assembly hoped they could outrun the facts.

But last month, the California Department of Motor Vehicles released its “Specific Deterrent Evaluation of the Ignition Interlock Pilot Program in California,” which studied the efficacy of the interlock mandate in four California counties: Alameda, Los Angeles, Sacramento and Tulare. Much to the dismay of advocates, the DMV report did not advocate in favor of expanding the pilot program statewide.

The bottom line of the DMV report: Those who installed the devices had an increased risk of crash or fatal injury compared to those who did not.

That’s right: Instead of making the roads safer, a statewide ignition interlock mandate for all offenders would likely make drivers less safe.

It makes sense if you think about it. IID’s require the driver to not only blow into them when they start the car, but also undergo a “rolling retest” which occurs at random to ensure the driver didn’t simply have someone else blow into the device to start the car. But picking up the device when it beeps to complete a long breath test is a massive distraction — not unlike texting and driving.

But there are some in California who don’t want a small detail like public safety to get in the way of a feel-good agenda. MADD, along with the bill’s author State Senator Jerry Hill, are already looking for ways to discredit the DMV’s impartial findings.

Yet this is the second year in a row that the DMV evaluated the pilot program and refused to recommend expanding it. In 2015, the five-year pilot program was extended for an additional 18 months after the DMV found that “the IID pilot program was not associated with a reduction in the number of first-time and repeat DUI convictions in the pilot counties.”

Since proponents of expanding interlock mandates in California can’t point to empirical evidence that the law would have a net positive effect on traffic safety, they instead fall back on the fact that 26 other states have passed similar laws. What they don’t mention is how poorly the laws are working in those states.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Association fewer than 20 percent of those ordered to get an interlock actually have them installed. The reason is that laws like the one proposed in California are an unfunded mandate, meaning there’s no money to ensure that offenders actually comply with the law.

That’s why ignition interlock mandates for all offenders is such misguided public policy. Over 70 percent of alcohol-related fatalities are caused by high-BAC and repeat offenders — hard-core alcohol abusers. California could save far more lives if it worked to reach 100 percent ignition interlock installation compliance among this target population, rather than expanding the mandate so widely that it is even more difficult to enforce.

But that wouldn’t serve MADD’s ultimate agenda of seeing alcohol-sensing technology installed in every car in America.

It may sound far-fetched, but MADD has long supported an ongoing federal program called DADSS (Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety) which has developed technology that can read a driver’s blood alcohol concentration level through touch technology in the steering wheel or ignition button. A drivable prototype was unveiled last year and engineers aim to have it on the market in approximately five years.

Thus, MADD is pushing hard to expand current ignition interlock laws. The more the current technology is normalized, the easier it will be to sell its more sophisticated progeny to legislators and the public.

But just because the DMV report doesn’t serve MADD’s ultimate goal, doesn’t mean we should ignore the findings.

Facts are stubborn things. And the fact is, interlock mandates for first-offenders aren’t the drunk driving panacea MADD wants them to be.

Sarah Longwell is the managing director of the American Beverage Institute.

Study: DMV Auto-Registration to Add 2 Million New Voters

VotedCalifornia’s electorate could grow by more than 2 million voters once a new law implementing automatic registration through the DMV starts working in 2017, according to a new study.

The study, conducted by the Public Policy Institute of California, predicts that as voter registration increases, so will diversity in the electorate among underrepresented groups.

However, determining how much the electorate will grow largely depends on the rate with which eligible voters decline automatic registration at the DMV, according to the study.

How it works

Under the new law, the DMV will transfer data on customers, who come in for a new license or a renewal, to the Secretary of State for automatic voter registration. However, the individual can decline to participate in the process. This process is estimated to start in July 2017.

As a benchmark, the study used statistics from Oregon, where 7 percent of eligible voters declined automatic enrollment under a similar law.

About 7.4 million Californians are eligible to vote but remain unregistered.

Increases diversity

The new law will increase the share of the electorate for underrepresented groups. Latinos would increase their share by 4 percent, up to almost 28 percent. Asian/Pacific Islanders would jump to 16.6 percent, an increase of 1.7 percent.

The gains made by Latinos and Asian/Pacific Islanders would have a diminishing effect on African American’s share of the electorate, as their share would decrease slightly to 7.3 percent — a loss of .2 percent.

The largest jump would be among Californians with no college education, who would increase their share of the electorate from 26.8 percent to 33.1 percent.

“In general, registering the unregistered population involves bringing a very different group of people into the electorate: one that is younger, more diverse, more mobile, poorer, and less educated,” writes the study’s authors Eric McGhee, a research fellow at PPIC and Mindy Romero, founder and director of the California Civic Engagement Project at the UC Davis Center for Regional Change.

Will it lead to turnout?

Despite the new law increasing the share of the electorate among underrepresented groups, gaps will persist. For example, voters with two foreign-born parents currently experience a 15-percentage-point gap between their share of the adult population and their share of the electorate. The new law would shrink that gap to below 11 points.

The study’s authors concede that it’s difficult to determine exactly how large the new electorate will be, with the rate of declining to register as the largest variable. And the larger registration rates will not necessarily boost voter turnout, which has been decreasing for decades, but was particularly low in the 2012 primary.

“Even if (the new system) does significantly boost registration, it does not solve the problem of low turnout; it simply removes one barrier to participation,” wrote McGhee and Romero. “Many of the new registrants will be coming from disadvantaged communities and will be disengaged from politics, never having been contacted by any candidate or campaign.”

Originally published by CalWatchdog.com

Thoughtless Bureaucrats and Driverless Cars

google car2California’s Legislature set out in 2012 “to encourage the current and future development, testing and operation of autonomous vehicles on the public roads of the state” — but now, the state is poised effectively to ban such cars from the roads and highways. The Department of Motor Vehicles held a public workshop in Sacramento in late January and another in Los Angeles in early February to discuss draft regulations for autonomous vehicles. Though the rules won’t be finalized before the end of the year, the news so far isn’t good — for the cars. Under the cover of “consumer protection,” the DMV proposes to limit the rollout of autonomous technology by, among other things, barring its commercial use, precluding truly autonomous operation, and prohibiting private sale and ownership of self-driving cars.

The DMV is best known for ensuring that 16-year-olds are minimally competent behind the wheel of traditional motor vehicles; it has no particular expertise in evaluating the appropriateness of vehicle-safety requirements. But that hasn’t stopped the department from imposing an excess of caution on the approval of autonomous-vehicle technology. The idea of cars or trucks operating without steering wheels or human drivers is exciting to entrepreneurs and commuters. Google’s autonomous car would have no steering wheel, or even pedals. A delivery service such as Google Express would likely roll out without drivers. Uber is researching how to replace drivers as well. Shipping and logistics companies also envision a future when goods move from harbors to warehouses in autonomous trucks. More than a dozen disabled activists appeared at the hearing in Los Angeles to urge the DMV to allow purely autonomous vehicles, saying they would be a boon for people, such as the blind, who are incapable of driving right now. But the idea is terrifying to bureaucrats and regulators. The DMV’s smothering — and costly — approach will likely become state policy, squelching such innovations.

Keeping driverless cars off the streets is one thing; why ban their sale entirely? DMV chief information officer Bernard Soriano said last month that because the proposed rules would place a three-year limit on the use of approved vehicles, buyers likely wouldn’t receive much benefit over such a short period of ownership. Furthermore, the DMV believes that by prohibiting sales, the rules would protect early adopters of the technology from being stuck with vehicles that are later deemed unsafe by the department. Finally, the DMV maintains that leased vehicles, which remain under the ownership of the vehicle manufacturer, will be easier to collect data from.

The first of the rationales is the most compelling, but only compared with the others. With only three years before retirement, a purchased vehicle’s value — much of it traditionally recouped in its resale — would be destroyed by these regulations. The rule would shift a greater financial burden onto manufacturers and all but guarantee that the only people able to afford early vehicles, even by leasing them, will be wealthy. If anything, the three-year sunset requirement is itself a constructive ban on ownership, which makes the DMV’s second rationale irrelevant. If a small, wealthy segment of the population is aware of the state’s strictures and doesn’t mind temporarily possessing a vehicle that’s doomed by law, it can certainly afford the risk. The state’s supposed desire to protect these people from loss seems at once unnecessary and disingenuous.

The DMV’s third and final rationale — compliance with reporting requirements—is even more poorly conceived. As with every vehicle sold today, the manufacturer, for better or worse, controls the technology used and the data it produces. When you buy or lease a car, you sign a contract that says so explicitly. So the DMV would have access to any safety data it likes, regardless of whether the “owner” is the manufacturer or the end user.

Without question, prohibiting private sale and ownership of self-driving cars and trucks would destroy value and raise costs. Google has already threatened to take its autonomous vehicle business elsewhere. Given that outcome, the DMV’s justifications simply don’t hold up. So why would the DMV push prohibition with such gusto? Why would the state pursue policies to discourage the adoption of vehicles that, by virtually all accounts, would be orders of magnitude safer than traditionally operated vehicles? And, how does a department charged with enacting the will of the legislature land so far afield of the legislature’s stated goal of creating a legal framework that promotes autonomous vehicles? Very simply, lawmakers deferred too much authority to a bureaucracy, and California’s motorists will pay the price.

Boom in Driver’s Licenses Issued to Illegal Immigrants

As reported by the Los Angeles Times:

Judith Benitez had gone most of her adult life without knowing how to drive.

The 35-year-old woman from Mexico who is in the U.S. illegally would ask family members for rides to pick up her children from school. Trips to the grocery store or the doctor’s office were complicated.

That changed last year when Assembly Bill 60 was implemented, granting people in the country illegally the right to obtain driver’s licenses in California. Benitez, who lives in Lemon Grove, learned to drive and was among those in line at the Department of Motor Vehicles the day the law took effect.

“Truthfully, it was an extremely emotional time because having a [driver’s] license isn’t just any little thing,” she said. “We feel a little more protected.”

An estimated 605,000 licenses were issued under the law last year, accounting for nearly half of all new licenses, according to the California DMV. Nearly 400,000 of the licenses were issued during the first six months. …

Click here to read the full article

Half-Million Driver’s Licenses Granted to Illegal Immigrants

DMVRoiled by immigration fears on both sides, California supplied drivers licenses to big numbers of the otherwise undocumented, further sharpening the statewide debate.

“California issued more than a half-million driver’s licenses under a new law granting the identifying documents to immigrants who may be in the country illegally,” the Associated Press noted. “The Department of Motor Vehicles announced Wednesday that 605,000 licenses were issued since AB60 took effect last January. That’s out of 830,000 applications.”

The Orange County Registerreported that reaching and processing that group would cost an estimated $141 million spread over three years. “Seniors were particularly hard hit because anyone over 70 has to appear in person at a DMV office to have a license renewed,” according to the Register. But 76-year-old Kent Moore told the Register that he had “mixed feelings” about spending hours at the Costa Mesa DMV despite holding an appointment. “These folks have jobs. And they support families. If they go through the credential process, they shouldn’t be denied,” he said. “But I paid my dues. I’ve been a model citizen. I don’t feel I should have to wait in line for hours, behind newly arrived people who are here illegally.”

No residency permits

Although opposition to the licensing plan has been steady, it has not produced a groundswell strong enough to roll back the problem. But a proposed initiative that would have ushered in a residence permit system for those who unlawfully entered and remained in the state failed to collect enough signatures to meet the requirements for inclusion on the ballot this election year. The so-called California Immigration Reform Act “would also have created a new state department to administer the permit system, require permit holders to pay state income taxes and make permit holders eligible for certain public benefits,” MyNewsLA noted. “The initiative would also have prohibited state and local governments from using public funds to support or otherwise participate in federal immigration enforcement against permit holders.”

Immigration has remained a sharply divisive issue, with state officials seeking to pursue an accommodating course while many residents remain on edge. Late last month, the Golden State was virtually alone in responding favorably to the federal government’s request for help in housing immigrant children on their own. “California and Virginia told the National Guard Bureau they have facilities that could be used but they would require additional funding if asked to meet federal requirements,”according to the Associated Press. California Guard spokesman Brandon Honig told the AP that “all state facilities would require work for fencing or other items to meet the requirements.”

Raid fears

But this month, passions have run high amid a spate of federal immigration raids both real and imagined. In events that sent tremors through California politics, “Democrats, led by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, have protested a number of raids carried out in southern states by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers against illegal immigrants from Central America — 121 adults and children who had been ordered to leave the country by a judge,” ABC News reported. “Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-California, who has been in constant communication with White House officials and attended the Tuesday meeting with the White House council, said she was not aware of any imminent ‘pause’ to the operations.” Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., had predicted a reprieve, although he couldn’t speak to when the White House might announce it, according to The Hill.

Rumors quickly caught fire in California that deportation raids were underway on the west coast too. As Fusion noted, “there were multiple reports of immigration officials lingering in front of a San Francisco elementary school. Tweets, Facebook updates, and even Instagram posts reported immigration checkpoints at grocery stores all over the Bay Area. There were also reports of immigration agents rounding up day laborers at a Home Depot in Hayward. But all of the reports turned out to be false, according to immigration officials and other social media users who went looking for the raids with the intent to share pictures and video.”

Originally published by CalWatchdog.com

CA Evades National ID Card … For Now

Real ID law

Credit: www.wkyt.com

Amid fears of travel debacles and administrative nightmares, the federal government gave California a last-minute extension to become compliant with new nationwide ID requirements.

At the mercy of the Department of Homeland Security, California had joined a number of states in dragging its feet on the new rules, meant to make drivers licenses more uniform and secure. “The latest actions by the department granted compliance extensions to California, Alaska, South Carolina and New Jersey until Oct. 10, 2016,” according to Quartz. “With these extensions, 22 states are now exempt until that date from the security requirements, known as Real ID. New Mexico and Washington state have exemptions that last through Jan. 10, and have yet to be granted extensions.”

The grab bag of states reluctant to comply with the regulations revealed two sets of political quirks. Firstly, although DHS actually lacks the legal power to enforce compliance, it has relied on a variety of regulatory carrots and sticks to sway most states. “In October, it began requiring that visitors to military bases, nuclear plants and federal facilities produce a driver’s license from a state that complies with the law, or show another form of government ID, like a passport,” the New York Times reported. “But the biggest leverage the government has over the states is commercial air travel.”

“The Department of Homeland Security said it would provide a schedule by the end of this year for when airport screeners would start accepting only driver’s licenses that complied with federal standards. It said that 120 days’ notice would be given before starting to enforce the law at airports.”

Nationwide pushback

That move confirmed the fears of personal privacy and civil liberty advocates, who have long warned of a federal drive toward an effectual national ID card. Others have focused in on the broader inefficiencies of the Transportation Security Administration, which has endured a string of high-profile scandals and failures in recent years. “We already know that Real ID noncompliance has no effect on airport security, just as we know that TSA body scanners and screening procedures don’t work. Last year, screeners had a 95 percent failure rate when Homeland Security agents tried to sneak weapons and fake explosives through TSA checkpoints at airports around the country,” wrote the editorial board of the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

And some activists and analysts also criticized the sheer cost of compliance. “There is no need for California to spend a dime on Real ID compliance, but the most recent analysis of AB1465 says the California DMV would incur costs of approximately $5.56 million in 2016-17 and $5.4 million each year after that,” argued Cato Institute senior fellow Jim Harper.

But, in California, the changes have impacted a different constituency as well: advocates for mainstreaming unlawful immigrants into civic life. Liberals statewide — and around the country — largely cheered when the Golden State succeeded in its negotiations last year with federal authorities around granting special drivers licenses to the otherwise undocumented. Although officials have said “the new rules are not related to California’s decision to provide drivers’ licenses to immigrants,”according to KCRA, because “[t]hose licenses were never intended to be used for air travel and are marked accordingly,” Washington’s aggressive negotiating stance — it rejected initial California designs for the special license — implied a federal interest in minimizing differences between licenses in different states.

Time running out

Adding to the atmosphere of concern, some states have already had their requests for compliance extensions rejected. “At least 19 other states recently received an extension of their exemptions, but the federal agency rejected requests for extensions from Missouri and Illinois,” KCRA reported separately. “States initially were supposed to comply with the Real ID requirements by the end of 2009. Federal authorities have repeatedly delayed implementation to provide time for states to change their driver’s license procedures and make the necessary technological improvements.” But patience has begun to run out.

Originally published on CalWatchdog.com

Brown Signs Bill Creating Automatic Voter Registration at DMV

VotedSecretary of State Alex Padilla has succeeded in his quest to automatically register Californians to vote.

Partisan privileges

The bill he sponsored, passed by the Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown, touched off a fresh round of controversy over the wisdom and benefits of the approach to increasing turnout, which in California has sunken to historic lows. Last year, the state’s midterm elections mustered a 42 percent turnout, as NPR observed.

Recent polling by the Public Policy Institute of California indicated that, while two thirds of respondents supported the legislation, “49 percent lean toward the Democratic Party and 22 percent toward the Republican Party; 29 percent lean toward neither party or are unsure.” The imbalance has led many Republicans to express frustration that Democrats were supporting automatic registration for their own benefit. Slightly complicating the picture, however, the PPIC poll also indicated an ideological tilt to the right among unregistered adults: “37 percent are conservative, 31 percent are liberal, and 31 percent are moderate.”

Easing the vote

Proponents of the law argued that its mechanics were straightforward and efficient. “Eligible citizens are registered to vote when they show up at a Department of Motor Vehicles office to obtain a driver’s license or state ID,” as the Huffington Post explained. “The DMV gives the eligible voter a chance to opt out if they prefer not to register. If the person does not opt out, the DMV electronically transfers their voter registration information to the Secretary of State’s office, rather than making election officials enter data by hand from paper registration forms.”

“Citizens should not be required to opt-in to their fundamental right to vote,” Padilla said in a statement. “We do not have to opt-in to other rights, such as free speech or due process. The right to vote should be no different.” Voters, NPR noted, “retain the right to opt out, cancel or change party affiliation at any time,” adding that Padilla’s office pegged the number of eligible but unregistered potential California voters at 6.6 million.

Brown signed the bill in conjunction with a suite of others, including “a bill permitting county elections officials to offer conditional registration and provisional voting at satellite locations during the 14 days immediately preceding election day,” another that will install secure ballot drop boxes “at shopping malls, libraries and other spots,” and one billing the cost of election recounts to the state, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Rights and risks

Together, the new laws were intended, the governor’s office said, “to help improve elections and expand voter rights and access in California.”

But critics said the law wouldn’t properly distinguish between citizens and noncitizens during the registration process — a point of contention amid the ongoing debate over efforts to reduce the legal consequences of unlawful entry into the state. Catherine Engelbrecht, founder of True the Vote, warned that state databases “lack the necessary safeguards to keep noncitizens off the voter rolls,” according to The Washington Times. True the Vote spokesman Logan Churchwell went further, the Times added, asserting that California officials “specifically chose not to make noncitizen license holders searchable in their DMV database.”

On Fox News, Judge Andrew Napolitano, a libertarian commentator, raised the specter of mass voting by noncitizens. “So if you are an illegal alien in California, get a driver’s license, register to vote, you can vote in local, state and federal elections in California and those votes count,” he said.

But other libertarians have claimed that the changes would heighten virtually the opposite sort of risk. The American Civil Liberties Union joined Republican lawmakers in opposing the bill. “Since California’s DMV now issues driver’s licenses to immigrants who are living in the country illegally, the group fears those drivers will be registered to vote mistakenly, risking their ability to stay in the country,” reported the San Jose Mercury News. “State and federal laws strictly forbid illegal immigrants from voting.”

The bill, passed as Assembly Bill 1461 and authored by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, will take effect this coming January.

Originally published by CalWatchdog.com

Automatic Motor-Voter Law Places Heavy Pressure on DMV

The recent news out of Pennsylvania that 289 Adarians are registered to vote has the state’s elections officials red-faced. Unless you’re a sci-fi fan, you can be forgiven for not knowing that Adarians are main characters in a series of books related to the “Star Wars” franchise: a “species of bipedal humanoids from the planet Adari.” Adarians also happen to be a registered political party in Pennsylvania (one of nearly 100 certified political parties in the state) comprised of bipedal human voters. But how many Adarians are there…really?

Turns out, the answer is a lot fewer than 289. A humorous if concerning investigation by the Philadelphia Daily News revealed that dozens of previously registered Democrats and Republicans have been re-registered as Adarians. The culprit appears to be PennDOT – the state’s equivalent of our DMV – which is tasked with implementing Pennsylvania’s “Motor Voter” program. As the News reports, “the mistakes are likely the result of alphabetical happenstance and human error [“Adarian” comes first in the party affiliation list], either on the voter’s part or on that of the PennDOT photo technicians who processed the applications.”

The story got me to thinking about California’s own “Motor Voter” program outlined in a piece of legislation (Assembly Bill 1461) that sits on the Governor’s desk.

The bill, which will start automatic voter registration for all California citizens when they get their driver’s license starting next June, casts a spotlight on an agency that appears unprepared to take on the challenge – at least in the coming year. And while much attention has been paid over the last year to improving California’s voter participation, aside from a public complaint filed by the ACLU earlier this year, the DMV has received precious little consideration relative to the significant role it’s mandated to play on the issue.

This is not news for the Secretary of State’s office. As a state senator, Secretary Padilla, requested a State Auditor’s report on the spending of federal funds by then-Secretary Deborah Bowen’s agency. That audit, pleadingly titled, “Office of the Secretary of State: It Must Do More to Ensure Funds Provided Under the Federal Help America Vote Act [HAVA] Are Spent Effectively” was issued just about two years ago, and is one of the most damning study of state government performance I’ve ever read.

Washington provided over $300 million to California under HAVA, part of which was designated to support easier voter registration under the 1993 National Voter Registration Act (NVRA). The state audit inspected the efforts of a number of California DMV locations to register California voters as they applied for driver’s licenses. NVRA prescribes that personal information needed for both drivers license and voter registration (name, address, Social Security number, etc.) be entered only once to create both the license and voter registration.  But according to the auditors, “when we visited DMV offices in the Sacramento area, we noted that the voter registration form was attached to the driver’s license application and that it requested duplicate information.”

Despite these problems of inconsistent, and incorrect, application by the DMV, AB1461 places new, technological demands on the DMV. Data entered and (as in the case of PennDOT) sometimes re-entered by human hands is prone to error, and while the agency is struggling to improve its use of technology, recent events give one caution that the DMV can handle the effective and accurate transmittal of data to the Secretary of State’s office.

Less than three years ago, the Los Angeles Times revealed that after $135 million investment had been made in a “technology overhaul” around “registering vehicles and issuing driver’s licenses,” the project was scrapped for being “dogged by delays and faulty computer coding.” This debacle joins a series of less severe problems involving computer-generated delays in licensing and registrations.

The gauntlet thrown (rightly, I might add) by the Secretary of State onto DMV’s front steps through AB1461 also coincides with the largest overhaul of the state’s voter rolls in California history. The long-awaited implementation of VoteCal which will combine county voting rolls into a single statewide database in compliance with federal regulation has recently begun with completion scheduled for next summer. VoteCal is intended to bring much greater authenticity to a voter roll, currently estimated to contain over 1 million out of date voter files.

A possible further complication to the effort, California is one of only 10 states offering driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants. Can a process that incorrectly registers Adarians in Pennsylvania, incorrectly register non-citizens in California? The Secretary of State is using Oregon, which just launched its first-in-the-nation auto register program earlier this year, as the model, but that state hasn’t had California’s DMV problems, nor does it offer licenses to undocumented immigrants.

The legislation acknowledges this prospect by granting immunity to non-citizens who are unwittingly registered to vote through this process.

To summarize, then, AB1461 proposes to get data from an agency with a recent history of technology and process failures, and add it to a brand new statewide voter database … in nine months … during a presidential election year.

To be clear, I support the Secretary’s hard work to fully and effectively implement the federal Motor Voter law, but given the scope and scale of the work to be done in the coming months, I can only echo the Adarians when I say to California’s DMV: “May the Force be with you.”

Originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

Pete Peterson is executive director of the Davenport Institute for Public Engagement at Pepperdine’s School of Public Policy.

CARTOON: Waiting at the DMV

DMV cartoon

More Corruption and Bribery Uncovered at CA DMV

DMVThe state Department of Motor Vehicles used to be a symbol of bureaucratic inefficiency, the subject of decades of jokes by Jay Leno and other California-based comedians. But then something unexpected happened: The DMV adopted to the computer era better than most state agencies and is often easy to use nowadays, both in scheduling appointments and in handling registration and some license renewals online.

Now, however, the agency is becoming notorious for another problem: chronic corruption. This is from an Aug. 11 AP report:

As many as 100 commercial truck drivers paid up to $5,000 each to bribe state Department of Motor Vehicles employees for illegal California licenses, federal authorities said Tuesday.

Up to 23 traffic accidents could be related to the fraud, officials said, though there were no fatalities.

Emma Klem, a 45-year-old Salinas DMV employee, and trucking school owner Kulwinder Dosanjh Singh, 58, of Turlock, both pleaded guilty Tuesday to conspiracy to commit bribery and identity fraud, U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wagner said.

Two other DMV employees in Salinas and Sacramento and two other Central Valley trucking school operators have been arrested on similar charges.

Court records say the employees changed computer records to falsely show that drivers had passed written and behind-the-wheel tests after they were bribed by the owners of three truck-driving schools between June 2011 and March 2015. …

The DMV revoked or cancelled 602 commercial licenses that could be linked to the fraud, including the 100 that were pinpointed by investigators, said Frank Alvarez, the DMV’s chief investigator.

Bribery cases concentrated in San Diego County

This is only one of several recent cases. This is from a June Union-Tribune report:

— A California Highway Patrol officer is the second person to be charged in connection with a DMV bribery scandal.

Carlos Ravelo is accused of illegally transferring a temporary driver’s license to a driver, once in September 2013 and again in January 2014, according to an indictment unsealed in San Diego federal court last month.

Ravelo is a 13-year veteran officer and works at the CHP’s El Cajon station.

In March, a Westminster DMV employee was arrested and charged with two counts related to taking bribes to provide driver’s licenses.

The Los Angeles Times also notes other cases in San Diego County:

In February, a San Diego DMV official pleaded guilty to accepting bribes for setting aside license suspensions and providing unauthorized temporary licenses to drivers who had lost theirs after being arrested on DUI charges.

Last year, five employees of the DMV’s El Cajon and Rancho San Diego offices were convicted in connection with a bribery scam in which licenses were improperly provided to clients of a local driving school.

Low starting pay may be driving scandals

These are in addition to 21 FBI arrests related to bribery at the same two offices in May 2012. This is from the FBI’s press release:

United States Attorney Laura E. Duffy announced today that employees at the California Department of Motor Vehicles in San Diego County were charged in a criminal complaint for their involvement in a long-running bribery conspiracy that resulted in the production of hundreds of fraudulent driver licenses for applicants who had failed — or not taken — the required driver license tests.

The complaint alleges that DMV officials at the El Cajon DMV office … and the Rancho San Diego DMV office … falsely entered both “passing” written and “passing” driving test scores for applicants in exchange for bribes ranging up to $3,000 per license.

In addition to the DMV employees, 16 other defendants were charged in the complaint. … According to court documents, the corruption scheme involved the fraudulent production of both Class C (regular) and Commercial Class A driver licenses. Hundreds of applicants paid recruiters approximately $400- $500 for each fraudulent Class C license … .

Considering that the starting pay of a “business service assistant” at DMV can be as low as $29,940 a year, this may be behind clerks deciding to augment their income illegally.