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New unlicensed-driver impound policy approved

February 28, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
The Los Angeles Police Commission approved a controversial proposal to amend the city's impound policy for unlicensed drivers in a 4 to 1 vote on Tuesday.

Currently if you are an unlicensed driver and your vehicle gets impounded, it will be on a 30-day hold. But under the new proposal, the same driver would be able to get their car back the next day.

LAPD Police Chief Charlie Beck proposed the change. The driver would be able to avoid the 30-day impound if they have valid identification, registration and proof of insurance. Drivers who cause an accident, or who have a suspended or revoked license, would not be eligible for a shorter impound.

About 85 percent of impounds are put on a 30-day hold.

During Tuesday's debate Police Commissioner Alan Skobin said that there were nearly 19,000 reported hit-and-run accidents in 2011. He also cited an Auto Club of Southern California report that said an unlicensed driver is nine times more likely to be involved in a hit-and-run.

Some people in the community expressed concern for the public's safety, and felt that preferential treatment was being given to illegal immigrants.

"On every car it says 'Protect and Serve,' and that should mean safety first," said Scott Egebjerg, who opposes the new proposal. "That means do not let anybody who does not have a license to drive a vehicle,"

"Look at the words on the wall- 'Reverence for the Law.' You obviously don't have it," said Dan Rosenberg, who opposes the new proposal.

City Councilman Mitchell Englander is against the new proposal. He says the state law was to keep unlicensed drivers from getting behind the wheel.

"We are talking about human beings, and we are talking about, yes, protecting all of us as we drive these streets," said John Mack, from the L.A. Police Commission. "I think some of the comments suggest that only unlicensed drivers are the ones who are involved in accidents."

Immigration activists and the American Civil Liberties Union also oppose the current law, arguing that it discriminates against illegal immigrants because they cannot apply for a driver's license.

Beck supports creating a license for illegal immigrants who have been in the U.S. for a long time and who have a clean record.

One issue is whether it will be legal for L.A. to change the length of the impound at all; the Legislative Counsel Bureau said that it doesn't believe a local government has the authority to make that change.

City News Service contributed to this story.

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