Thursday, March 1, 2012

A little kindness on car impounds, because nobody walks in LA

This is nice to see. The Los Angeles Police Commission has approved an LAPD policy on letting some unlicensed drivers keep their cars although California state law variously allows or requires police to tow for the offense of driving without a license. From the New America Media article I've just cited, it sounds like they're establishing a sort of limbo stage during which owners can have their cars back if they bring in a licensed driver, before full-on "impound" officially sets in. From this AP story it sounds like such returns "in lieu of impound" could still happen after physical towing. That's great news if true.

The change is mainly viewed as a realistic accommodation for undocumented immigrants. Having worked with homeless people who live in vehicles, I know this will also be a kindness to people living in the kinds of knockabout circumstances that tend to knock papers out of order.

Technicalities if you want them: here's Tuesday night's agenda with the item on Page 5. Linked from there is the LAPD's own internal order creating the change. Also there's a link to a state legislative counsel report (mentioned in the AP story) saying that police have discretion whether to impound some unlicensed drivers' cars, and that local governments can set policies about the exercise of such discretion, but arguing that, once such cars are impounded, a local government doesn't have authority to give them back.

Seems to all come down to what people mean by "impound." Suppose that will have to get argued out soon. Hope it's in a humane direction.

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