In a controversial move, the Los Angeles Police Commission approved a new plan this week that would ease the practice of impounding the vehicles of unlicensed drivers, a practice that seems to hit the state’s undocumented immigrants the hardest.
Police Chief Charlie Beck has spearheaded the change and faced much opposition in the process. But, he believes it’s the right thing to do, and the commission calls it an “act of humanity and compassion” according to the Los Angeles Times.
The policy applies to people who are stopped on a minor traffic violation and found to be driving without a license. If they have insurance, valid identification, and no prior citations for unlicensed driving their vehicles will still be impounded for a period of up to 30 days. But, officers will also be given the discretion to avoid the impoundment if the driver can get a licensed driver to the scene immediately to take their car.
Once a car is impounded, the owner must pay $38.50 per day plus a one-time fee of $228, rates that add up quickly. If the driver doesn’t meet the above criteria, their vehicle will be impounded for a 30 day period.
Critics of the new policy say it’s too lenient, that it is giving special treatment to undocumented immigrants, essentially giving them a slap on the wrist for unlicensed driving. But many others say it’s just what’s right.
Under California law, undocumented immigrants cannot get a driver’s license. And with such a large population of such immigrants, this means there are many such drivers on the road—most of which manage to drive safely amongst the licensed drivers day in and day out.
Prior to this change, the policy was vague and afforded little discretion. In essence, all unlicensed drivers were losing their vehicles.
“I am doing this for many reasons. It will improve responsible behavior among unlicensed drivers. But it is also a fairness issue for people who don’t have the opportunity to get licenses,” said Chief Beck.
The policy passed 4-1. Commissioner Alan Skobin, the only one who voted against said, “We can’t just close our eyes and pretend it’s OK to drive without a license.”
Driving without a license and driving while your license is suspended or revoked are two entirely different matters, however. If you are caught driving when your license is suspended or revoked, your vehicle will be impounded and you will face criminal charges.
But, in addition to impoundment, driving on a suspended license could land you in jail.
If you are facing charges of driving on a suspended or revoked license, contact us today to discuss your case and see how we might be able to help.