The California state Senate on Tuesday voted to restrict cities’ ability to impound cars driven by people caught at sobriety checkpoints without driver’s licenses, says the Los Angeles Times. The action came as a direct response to the city of Bell, which made it a practice to confiscate vehicles from unlicensed motorists — many of them illegal immigrants — and then charge high impound fees or sell them in order to fill city coffers.
Currently, cities can hold cars taken from unlicensed drivers for 30 days, with impound fees accruing each day. If unclaimed, the vehicles may then be auctioned off, something that often happens when fines and fees exceed the car’s value. Under the legislation, if a sober driver is caught at a DUI checkpoint without a valid license, officers must release the car to a qualified driver representing the registered owner. If a licensed driver isn’t immediately available, the car can be released to one later by the impound yard.