LAPD Limits Impounding of Unlicensed Drivers’ Cars

Joel Rubin and Ari Bloomekatz, Los Angeles Times, March 12, 2011

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Previously, LAPD officers at such checkpoints [sobriety checkpoints] followed stringent protocols that called for them to impound a car whenever the driver was found not to have a valid license, regardless of whether the driver had been drinking.

Those rules have drawn the ire of immigration advocacy groups that said they disproportionately targeted undocumented immigrants, who are not able to obtain licenses legally in nearly all U.S. states. {snip}

The new LAPD guidelines soften the department’s stance somewhat. Police will be required to make an attempt to contact the registered owner of the stopped vehicle. If the owner is a licensed driver and can respond to the checkpoint in “a reasonable period of time,” the officers will release the car to him or her. If the owner is unlicensed, officers will permit another person who is a licensed driver to take the car.

If no one with a license is available, police will impound a vehicle. In any case, police will issue a citation to the unlicensed driver.

Police Chief Charlie Beck said that since he took over the department more than a year ago, the checkpoint policy had “stuck in my craw as one of the things we weren’t doing the right way.” {snip}

The new rules, Beck said, were an attempt to mitigate somewhat “the current reality, which is that for a vast number of people, who are a valuable asset to our community and who have very limited resources, their ability to live and work in L.A. is severely limited by their immigration status.”

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