Judge: LAPD Car Impound Policy Is Illegal

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A judge ruled Monday that the Los Angeles Police Department's rules in deciding whether to impound vehicles are illegal. The case now heads to an appeals court. In the meantime, the LAPD's policy will remain in effect.

At issue is the LAPD's Special Order 7, which established a policy for the impounding of vehicles when unlicensed drivers were behind the wheel. Under the order, unlicensed drivers still have their cars impounded, but no longer face a 30-day hold on their vehicles, with fines that now often exceed $1,200.

Editors of La Opinión write that the repurcussions of impounding cars on undocumented immigrants, who are barred from getting driver's licenses in California, is no accident. In 1994, in the midst of California's anti-immigrant fever, the state legislature first allowed vehicles to be confiscated from unlicensed drivers for at least 30 days. "That legislation had little to do with road safety," editors write, "but was rather way to punish the undocumented by impounding their vehicles and requiring them to pay a hefty fine to get them back."

In 2011, a state law replaced the punitive measure with something more reasonable, requiring police at traffic checkpoints to give unlicensed drivers the chance to call someone else to take the car, rather than having it towed. One year later, the LAPD approved Special Order 7, which subsequently received the legal green light from State Attorney General Kamala Harris.

"There is actually an easy answer to all this that has been applied in other states: grant drivers licenses based on an individual's skill behind the wheel, regardless of his or her immigration status," the editorial concludes.

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