LAPD Eases Rules on Impounding Undocumented Immigrant Cars

Under criticism that it was unfairly targeting undocumented immigrants, the Los Angeles Police Department has announced changes to its rules for impounding cars of unlicensed drivers at sobriety checkpoints, reports the Los Angeles Times. Previously, officers at such checkpoints followed stringent protocols that called for them to impound a car whenever the driver was found not to have a valid license, regardless of whether the driver had been drinking.

Those rules drew the ire of immigration advocacy groups that said they disproportionately targeted undocumented immigrants, who are not able to obtain licenses legally in nearly all U.S. states. Once a vehicle is impounded, law enforcement agencies often require it to remain locked up for at least a month and charge the owner hefty fees to release it. Under the new guidelines, police will be required to make an attempt to contact the registered owner of the stopped vehicle. If the owner is a licensed driver and can respond to the checkpoint in “a reasonable period of time,” the officers will release the car to him or her. Police Chief Charlie Beck made the change after immigration rights advocates raised the issue with him.

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