A Los Angeles judge has ruled that the city’s policy on seizing and impounding vehicles violates California State law, and is too permissive and open to aggrandizement.
Superior Court Judge Terry Green ruled that the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) had essentially invented a method for confiscating cars that was inconsistent with both the spirit and the letter of State law, finding that the department’s policy on seizing vehicles driven by illegal aliens wasn’t reasonable in cases when a legal resident and licensed driver was also present.
From the car-centric policy journal TheNewspaper:
At issue is what to do when police pull over an illegal alien, someone who is by definition an unlicensed driver in the state. Judicial Watch, a conservative group, filed suit to force cops to seize and keep cars belonging to illegals for thirty days.
Los Angeles did a brisk business in car impounding until a 2005 decision of the Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals changed the legal landscape. The court found that just because a statute allows a car seizure, it does not automatically make confiscation reasonable for the purposes of the Fourth Amendment. The Ninth Circuit held that there was no reason for police to seize a legally parked car from an unlicensed driver when another licensed driver was present.
The department’s rule advised officers to confiscate vehicles that impede traffic flow, present a safety hazard, are located in vandalism-prone areas or “if there is nobody available to lawfully move it out of the way.”
Conservative groups have argued that the LAPD’s confiscation policy represents an “end-run around a law clearly ordering thirty-day impoundment of vehicles from drivers with expired or non-existent licenses.”
Setting aside the immigration politics, the city had a nice little racket going with the impoundments. Retrieving a confiscated vehicle in L.A. can cost more than $1,000 per incident, according to TheNewspaper. Multiply that by the “hundreds of thousands” of cars impounded annually, and the take gets into seven-digit territory.