The Los Angeles Police Department is halting the impounding of vehicles of unlicensed drivers amid concerns the practice may be unconstitutional, the Los Angeles Times reports. The change touches on what has long been a hot-button issue, because many unlicensed drivers who have their cars towed are illegal immigrants who cannot get driver’s licenses. Immigrant rights groups and some legislators have sought legislation granting illegal immigrants some form of driver’s licenses — but the bills have been repeatedly rejected, most recently by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Police decided to stop impounding until the city attorney’s office provides a final assessment of a 2005 U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in an Oregon impound case. L.A. impounds about 40,000 cars a year from unlicensed drivers; officials don’t know how many of them are illegal immigrants. The 9th Circuit found that impounding a legally parked vehicle was unreasonable seizure of private property under the 4th and 14th amendments when there was no reasonable public safety justification.