L.A. Fights For Impound Policy that Favors Undocumented Drivers

L.A. Fights For Impound Policy that Favors Undocumented Drivers
Sterling Davis Photo / LA Weekly Flickr pool.

City Hall last week lost a court battle over the LAPD's decision to generally avoid imposing a law requiring 30-day impounds on cars belonging to unlicensed drivers.

See also: LAPD's Impound Policy For The Undocumented Overturned.

A judge said the city policy interfered with state law and officers' rights to be more flexible while undertaking an impound. Today the L.A. City Attorney's office said it would appeal the ruling and ask that the LAPD's no-impound policy remain in place in the meantime:

The office said it filed a notice of appeal with the state's 2nd District Court of Appeal. It also said it would ask the court for a "stay" to allow the LAPD's no-tow policy to remain intact.

City lawyers argue that the LAPD's directive, called Special Order 7, gives officers options and is compliant with state law.

Special Order 7 is a directive to LAPD officers which addresses, in part, the impoundment of vehicles operated by unlicensed drivers. The order gives direction to officers about applying the Vehicle Code in a variety of situations, including adherence to state law governing driving-under-the-influence checkpoints. It also provides guidance regarding compliance with the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

The Attorney General of the State of California, in an official published opinion, previously had concluded that the LAPD may lawfully implement Special Order 7.

The city's arguments have been bolstered in court by ACLU staff attorneys. Immigrants' rights activists have argued that mandatory impounds at police checkpoints and other traffic stops amount to the seizure of poor people's cars.

Until a new law recently signed by Gov. Jerry Brown goes into effect months from now, those here without documentation cannot obtain drivers licenses and thus are subject to having their cars impounded for 30 days.

The impounds cost more than $1,000 for storage and fees. Often, people just let the vehicles go.

Ex-Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and current LAPD Chief Charlie Beck have argued that ain't right.

But the LAPD police union fought the directive, saying it gave officers orders that interfered with the state vehicle code, which they say gives cops on the street the choice between impounding a vehicle for 30 days or not.

Send feedback and tips to the author. Follow Dennis Romero on Twitter at @dennisjromero. Follow LA Weekly News on Twitter at @laweeklynews.

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