LAPD Changes Car-Impound Policy

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LOS ANGELES -- The goal of police checkpoints is to catch drunk drivers, but in the last few years, it has netted many more undocumented drivers. Now the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) is changing its car impounding policy in a move editors of La Opinión applaud.

Following the lead of cities like San Francisco and San Jose, the LAPD will now try to identify the registered owner of the car. If the registered owner is unlicensed, the owner may authorize release of the vehicle to a licensed driver at the scene, and the unlicensed driver will be issued a citation. Only when the vehicle cannot be released to a licensed driver will it be impounded.

Editors write that in the past few years, police checkpoints had "deteriorated into a random hunt for undocumented drivers without driver’s licenses, for the purposes of bringing funds into municipal coffers.

"The impounding of vehicles was unfair, not to mention the fact that the cars were held for long periods and the subsequent loss of the vehicle whenever the owners were unable to pay a hefty sum for towing and storage fees." 

This led to corruption in cities like Maywood, where towing companies received a commission for impounding cars, La Opinión reports.

Editors write that "this policy punished a working-class community throughout the state, often taking away the only transportation method people had available to get to work."

"We hope the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department follows in the footsteps of the LAPD, making changes so someone who is found driving without a license does not receive a punishment that is completely out of proportion to the offense committed," the editorial concludes. "Federal authorities are the ones who implement laws and regulations regarding the undocumented, rather than the police, which enforces traffic regulations."