A Superior Court judge Monday ruled that LAPD’s lenient policy on impounding cars belonging to unlicensed drivers was illegal. California’s vehicle code says the cars of unlicensed drivers should be impounded and held for 30 days. But last year, Police Chief Charlie Beck issued a directive—Special Order 7--that said unlicensed drivers who have insurance, valid I.D. and no previous citations for driving without a license should have their cars impounded sans the 30-day hold.
Beck’s reasoning for the directive was that it was morally right in a city where there are so many illegal immigrants who can’t legally obtain drivers licenses. Immigrants’ rights groups had complained that their cars were being disproportionately impounded and last year, after the directive was enacted, the number of cars impounded dropped 39 percent from the previous year.
But opponents say the directive takes away officers’ ability to use discretion in whether to implement the 30-day hold. The Los Angeles Police Protective League sued the city along with a conservative watchdog group based in Washington D.C. to put the 30-day holds back on the table. The ACLU and other groups plan to appeal the judge’s decision.
Was Chief Beck’s directive a good idea? Or is it dangerous to have such lenient policies for unlicensed drivers?
Paul Orfanedes, attorney for Judicial Watch
Michael Kaufman, ACLU staff attorney