A week after the Los Angeles Police Department announced a moratorium on impounding cars of unlicensed drivers because of legal questions, the city attorney’s office has determined that the practice is legal in most cases, reports the Los Angeles Times. Officers were told to cease impounding vehicles on traffic stops in which the only offense was driving without a license. Drivers will continue to be cited for that offense. Vehicles will be impounded only when they cannot be driven away by a licensed driver or parked legally and secured.
The issue has long been a hot-button one because many unlicensed drivers whose cars are 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. The police impound about 47,000 cars a year belonging to drivers who are unlicensed or have revoked or suspended licenses. Officials don’t gather information on how many of them are illegal immigrants.