California’s Vehicle Code authorizes law enforcement officers to impound the car of an unlicensed driver upon the failure to produce a valid license. For years, immigrants’ rights groups have claimed that such a policy adversely affects undocumented individuals in California.
Enter Special Order 7, a policy furthered by Police Chief Charlie Beck at the Los Angeles Police Department allowing leniency toward immigrants who reside in California illegally. Under Special Order 7, officers could no longer impound the cars of an unlicensed driver who, A) possessed auto insurance; B) could present valid identification; and C) had no previous citations for unlicensed driver. The policy was first proposed and approved by the Board of Police Commissioners in early 2012. After Special Order 7 took effect, the number of vehicles impounded in LA decreased from 28,796 in 2011 to 16,242 in 2012, according to CBS Los Angeles.
It didn’t take long for controversy to set in, both in the courts of law and public opinion.
In 2013, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Terry Green ruled that the policy violates state law. However, a ruling produced by the 2nd District Court of Appeal has reinstated the policy.
“Here, Special Order 7 implements state law; it does not create a new law. Use of police resources to enforce the Vehicle Code does not constitute waste,” argued the court.
The Court further determined that the challengers of LAPD’s policy, a taxpayer and a police union, lacked legal standing to bring forward the case.
Los Angeles is estimated to have over 400,000 illegal immigrants within the city’s limits. As of January 1, these individuals (and undocumented residents across the state) now have the opportunity to apply for drivers licenses.
Read more about the policy at CBS Los Angeles.