The political hot potato that is the LAPD's towing policy when it comes to unlicensed drivers just got a new topping.
The L.A. City Attorney's office today announced that a state appeals court ruled in City Hall's favor, allowing cops to not tow and impound the vehicles of unlicensed drivers stopped by officers or ensnared in DUI checkpoints.
The LAPD policy known as Special Order 7 is a big deal because …
… it was essentially designed to give those in the United States illegally a break.
You see, immigrants' rights groups complained that undocumented were seeing some of their most expensive possessions taken away because they were not legally able to obtain a license in California.
(Gov. Jerry Brown recently signed a bill that will soon allow them to obtain licenses again).
A 30-day impound for an unlicensed driver can cost more than $1,000 dollars in towing, storage and other fees, and many newcomers just opt to let their cars go.
Former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and other local politicians complained about the impounds, and LAPD Chief Charlie Beck announced that, for the most part, his officers would stop the tows and impounds so long as unlicensed drivers had done nothing else wrong.
Some conservative elements in town, including talk radio and the LAPD's union, complained bitterly about this Special Order 7. The union sued and argued in court that the directive clashed with state law that mandates 30-day impounds or at least gives cops the option.
It has gone back and forth in court, but this week the Second Appellate District ruled that the LAPD can continue with Special Order 7 temporarily while the legal battle of a permanent injunction against the policy marches on.
Chief Beck was happy about it, stating:
I am pleased by the Court of Appeal's ruling today granting a stay on the lower court's decision to rescind Special Order No. 7. The Court's decision allows the Department to return to exercising the thoughtful impound protocols delineated in Special Order No. 7. We will be reinstating the order immediately.
Tyler Izen, president of the LAPD union, known as the Los Angeles Police Protective League, has said this about the policy:
LAPD officers were caught in the middle of a legal controversy over whether they must impound vehicles driven by unlicensed drivers as required by the State Vehicle Code or follow LAPD Special Order No. 7 that preempted uniform enforcement of the statewide impound regulations. The decision to litigate was not taken lightly, and it was not a position on immigration policy or the status of undocumented immigrants in this country. The LAPPL felt strongly that it was unreasonable and unacceptable to place our membership in this position, and that public safety suffered because of this Special Order.