The LA Times is reporting that a California state agency has issued an opinion causing the Police Commission to put on hold a vote to alter how the LAPD treats impounded vehicles of unlicensed drivers. Under current California law, vehicles of unlicensed drivers can be impounded, and if they are, they must remain in impound for 30 days, often costing the owner of the vehicle in excess of $1,000. LAPD Chief Charlie Beck had hoped to lessen that financial impact by allowing certain drivers to retrieve their vehicles as early as the next day following impound. However, the Police Commission now believes Beck’s plan may run afoul of state law.
The real issue here is the impact of exorbitant impound fees on undocumented residents who cannot obtain a valid California driver’s license. Many times, these residents obtain a valid driver’s license from a neighboring state, but because they reside in California, they nonetheless are in violation of California Vehicle Code Section 12500, requiring residents of California to have driver’s licenses issued by this state if they wish to drive. Furthermore, the Vehicle Code allows law enforcement to impound vehicles involved in a violation of section 12500.
Chief Beck should be applauded for attempting to address the obvious issue this creates with good drivers, who are insured, but nonetheless undocumented residents.