The Los Angeles Times reports that critics of the new changes to California's car impound law made their voices heard during Tuesday's meeting of the Los Angeles Police Commission community forum. What is the new law and how does it benefit unlicensed drivers?
What did the old car impound law require?
The California Department of Motor Vehicles explains that motorists caught driving without a driver's license -- or while operating a motor vehicle on a suspended or revoked license -- will have their cars impounded for a mandatory 30-day period. At the end of this time period, the car's registered owner may retrieve it, after paying fines, tow costs and impound fees. If an unlicensed driver "reinstates his or her driver's license or acquires a driver's license and proper insurance," the motorist may pick up the impounded vehicle before the 30 days elapsed.
When did the law change?
Gov. Jerry Brown signed AB 353 on Oct. 9, 2011. The Los Angeles Times reported that the new law was introduced by Gil Cedillo (D-Los Angeles).
How does AB 353 benefit unlicensed drivers?
AB 353, as posted by the Legislative Analyst, does away with the mandatory 30-day impound period, if "the driver's only offense is, among other offenses, the failure to hold a valid driver's license." Instead, a police officer must release the car to its registered owner, if a licensed driver, or a named representative, if not.
Did the mandatory impounding benefit Californians?
Citing a DMV study, the Association of Official Police Garages shows that "first-time offenders who had their vehicles impounded were 18 percent less likely to have additional convictions than those who received citations, but did not have their vehicles impounded." Among repeat-offenders, impounding of vehicles made them "22 percent less likely to have additional convictions." Moreover, repeat-offenders, who suffered the consequence of impounds, had 37.6 percent fewer crashes. First-time offenders had 25 percent fewer crashes.
How much are the impound fees?
The Sacramento Police Department explains that a registered owner must pay a $130 vehicle release fee, a $180 tow fee, and storage fees of $50 per day (totaling $1,500 over 30 days).
Why was the law changed?
Talking to the L.A. Times in December, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck explained that illegal immigrants are unfairly burdened by the mandatory impound laws. Highlighting that this demographic consists of people "who are a valuable asset to our community and who have very limited resources," he pointed to the expense of retrieving an impounded vehicle as being an unequal punishment.
Sylvia Cochran is a Los Angeles area resident with a firm finger on the pulse of California politics. Talk radio junkie, community volunteer and politically independent, she scrutinizes the good and the bad from both sides of the political aisle.
- Politics & Government