Police are investigating a motorist and his passenger after the driver refused to show his driver’s license at a sobriety checkpoint in downtown Napa, according to court records.
The driver told law enforcement officers at the checkpoint he did not have to provide his driver’s license. Police officers differed.
The matter began on Aug. 22 when Napa Police Sgt. Brian Campagna was supervising the sobriety checkpoint at Third and Coombs streets. Police had publicized this enforcement action in local media.
At about 10:30 p.m., a California Highway Patrol Officer Phil Ross assigned to the checkpoint told Campagna a motorist was declining to show his driver’s license, according to a search warrant related to the incident.
Citing case law, Johnathan Travis Moore, or Travis Kasprowicz, a 31-year-old man from Vacaville driving the 2014 Chrysler 300, declined to provide his driver’s license after multiple requests from the CHP officer, according to the court filing.
A front-seat passenger, Ryan Tregaskis, 23, who was known to one of the police officers present, started filming the scene with a cellphone. Moore stated he had not been drinking, according to the search warrant.
Campagna allowed Moore to leave after taking down the license plate, according to the court document. On Aug. 26, Campagna learned the video had been posted on YouTube.
Neither driver nor passenger has been charged in connection with the incident. Napa Police declined to further comment on the case, citing an investigation that was under way.
Attempts to reach Moore and Tregaskis were unsuccessful.
No case has been referred to the Napa County District Attorney’s Office for possible prosecution, said Allison Haley, chief deputy district attorney.
In court records, Campagna said Moore was required to provide his driver’s license. Campagna then obtained a search warrant to search Moore/Kasprowicz’ and Tregaskis’ cellphones and computers at their residences in Vacaville and Napa respectively.
“It is my opinion that Moore and Tregaskis conspired to enter this checkpoint to commit a crime, specifically with the intent to resist/obstruct and delay officers at the checkpoint,” Campagna wrote.
CHP Sgt. Diana McDermott said officers request a driver’s license at sobriety checkpoints “to ensure the highest level of traffic safety.”
“The reasoning was based on a study conducted by DMV which showed 33 percent of drivers with a suspended or revoked license have a criminal record and 85 percent of those drivers used their automobiles in the commission of a crime,” McDermott said.
“The study also included statistical information on increased fatal and injury collisions, and increased DUI of drivers with suspended or revoked license status,” she said.
“A number of cases have been brought at the state and federal levels on the legality of sobriety checkpoints since the first ones were set up in the late 1980s. Yet the court has been silent on whether motorists have to show their driver’s licenses,” McDermott said.
“Generally, DUI checkpoints are legal, at least so long as they are truly aimed at checking for sobriety and operated properly,” Alex Kreit, associate law professor at law at the Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego.
According to Hayward-based attorney Amy Morell, who defends motorists charged with driving under the influence in Napa, these DUI checkpoints are legal as long as long as police officers follow a number of factors, including having a supervisor, setting the location of the checkpoint at a safe location, and doing advance publicity. “That’s where we litigate the most,” Morell said.
Kreit also said that “as a result of the U.S. Supreme court cases, the purpose of the checkpoint can be a key factor in its constitutionality. “If this was just a standard DUI checkpoint, then it’s fine. If this checkpoint was serving some other purpose, then it could be on shakier grounds,” he said.
Morell said the law prohibits the officers from impounding vehicles of drivers who do not have a driver’s license. That does not apply to motorists with suspended driver’s licenses.