Editor’s Note:The mark of civilized society society is respect for the rule of law and the justice of the law. Not so long ago, the issue of law and order was focused on the poor of large American cities. But violent crime is down sharply across the country today in the poorest community of Los Angeles and other major cities. Increasingly, questions are being raised about whether the rich in our financial institutions and the powerful in our political institutions are abusing the law for their own benefit. This is a first in a series of articles taken from the Internet.
By LA Police Protective League, Board of Directors
officers are sworn to always uphold the law. But a recent change to the
Department’s impound policy disregards the well defined vehicle code,
threatening the safety of drivers and possibly exposing the City to legal
liabilities at a time when it’s struggling to close a huge budget gap.
The California Vehicle Code clearly defines the grounds for “Impoundment
and Forfeiture of Motor Vehicles.” Under Vehicle Code Section 14607.6 (c) (1):
If a driver is unable to
produce a valid driver’s license on the demand of a peace officer enforcing the
provisions of this code, as required by subdivision (b) of Section 12951, the
vehicle shall be impounded regardless of ownership, unless the peace officer is
reasonably able, by other means, to verify that the driver is properly
licensed. Prior to impounding a vehicle, a peace officer shall attempt to
verify the license status of a driver who claims to be properly licensed but is
unable to produce the license on demand of the peace officer.
rank and file know all too well that in these situations, it’s often impossible
to verify a driver’s licensure status because, alas, the driver is not
licensed. When this is the case, the law clearly mandates the impoundment of
But the Department’s revised policy states that instead of impounding the car
of an unlicensed driver stopped at a DUI checkpoint – as required by law -
officers must now identify the vehicle’s registered owner and release the
vehicle to the owner (or the owner’s designee) if he or she is able to respond
to the scene “within a reasonable amount of time.”
The value of impounding vehicles driven by unlicensed drivers is two-fold.
First, the cost and inconvenience of recovering an impounded vehicle should
discourage anyone from violating the license requirement. Second, an unlicensed
driver who is willing to ignore the law is, at least temporarily, unable to
further violate this law while his or her car is impounded. This new policy
substantially reduces the disincentives against unlicensed and unlawful
operation of a vehicle. Moreover, it exposes officers and the City to potential
legal liability stemming from any damage or injury caused by an unlicensed
driver’s continued operation of a vehicle that should have been impounded under
For these reasons, the League has filed a class action grievance against the
policy change. The grievance seeks to have the modification rescinded. If the
City and Department feel strongly that the new LAPD policy is somehow more
enlightened than state law on this matter – we can’t imagine how it would be -
they should devote the necessary resources and time to have the California
Vehicle Code changed. Until then, the proper course of action is to follow the
law as the men and women of the LAPD are sworn to do.