Yesterday, a Superior Court judge ruled against Special Order 7, a LAPD policy relating to the impounding of vehicles belonging to unlicensed drivers. Under Special Order 7, officers from the Los Angeles Police Department would have discretion when confronted with the choice of impounding a driver's vehicles during a traffic stop. Special Order 7 would also permit unlicensed drivers to reclaim their vehicles in fewer than 30 days – the standard impoundment period – if they provide proof of insurance, registration, and valid identification and have no prior misdemeanor convictions for driving without a license. The 30-day hold period can be a serious setback to individuals who need their vehicles and can result in fines in excess of $1,200.
The impoundment policy was implemented last year and is supported by LAPD Chief Charlie Beck and the Police Commission. According to their stance, adopting a more forgiving policy was the morally and ethically sound thing to do in a city with such a large population of undocumented residents. Statistics have continually shown that undocumented immigrants who cannot legally obtain licenses were having their vehicles impounded at disproportionate rates and were forced to endure the negative financial consequences that resulted.
The claim against Special Order 7 was made by lawyers from Judicial Watch – a watch dog organization based in Washington, DC – and the Los Angeles Police Protective League – the union representing LAPD officers. According to their claim, the new policy violates state law. Unfortunately for Police Chief Beck and many other proponents, an LA County Superior Court judge sided with them. Although the ruling comes as a setback to what Beck believes are fairer policies, Special Order 7 will remain in effect while the judge decides whether to place his ruling aside until the case is heard in an appeals court.
At Lessem, Newstat & Tooson, LLP, our Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys understand the many challenges our clients face after they have been charged with a criminal offense. The underlying issues with this particular case, as they so often are in criminal proceedings, not only dealt with the difficult matters of undocumented citizens but also the issue of fairness in law enforcement and the many financial burdens that arise after criminal charges. For individuals and families facing criminal allegations throughout the Los Angeles area, be confident knowing that our firm fights to protect your rights, your future, and all aspects of your well-being. Contact a Los Angeles criminal attorney from our firm to discuss your case.