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LAPD car impound policy for unlicensed drivers struck down

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POSTED August 12, 2013 10:02 p.m.

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A judge struck down a Los Angeles Police Department policy Monday that makes it easier for unlicensed drivers to keep their cars instead of having them impounded after the drivers are stopped by police.

After an hour-long discussion and voluminous briefs from both sides, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Terry Green sided with the police union and a conservative watchdog group challenging the policy, and agreed that the policy violates the state's vehicle code.

The special order in question was implemented by Police Chief Charlie Beck and went into effect last year. It allows some unlicensed drivers who are stopped to produce registration and proof of insurance to avoid having their cars impounded for 30 days. It was supported by immigrant rights groups and the mayor, who said the old impound policy was especially unfair to immigrants who cannot obtain a driver's license.

The Los Angeles Police Protective League filed the lawsuit in April 2012, arguing that the so-called Special Order 7 would subject officers to "professional and legal conflict, as well as civil liabilities" when enforcing uniform impoundment regulations.

On Monday, union President Tyler Izen cheered the judge's decision, which he said placed police officers in the middle of a legal controversy.

Attorney Michael Kaufman of the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, which represented the community groups defending the department's impound policy, said they will request a stay of the decision pending their appeal.

Deputy City Attorney Gerald Sato said the city will also consider similar actions.

Sato said the policy was meant to ensure police officers were not violating peoples' Fourth Amendment rights of "unreasonable" seizure by providing additional guidelines as to when to impound a vehicle.

"The judge obviously spent a lot of time looking at this case, and I think the decision deserves a lot of attention from us," Sato said.

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