Rolling closer to passage is California AB 353 a bill seeking to allow those driving without a valid driver's license (either suspended or unable to obtain one due to legal status) to prevent impoundment of their vehicles.
Currently state law mandates drivers caught, usually at safety checkpoints, are written up and their cars impounded for up to 30 days. Authors of AB 353 contend that illegal immigrants and the Latino population in general are more susceptible to losing their impounded vehicles altogether. (The fines and fees can cost more than the car is worth).
Gil Cedillo, (Democrat from Los Angeles and whose campaign treasurer, Kinde Durkee was arrested over the weekend by the FBI for political-related fraud), claims that police impound unlicensed driver's vehicles to raise additional money- something that places an undue burden on Latino families.
AB 353 co-sponsor Michael Allen (D- Santa Rosa) contends; “Checkpoints in some communities have veered off course from the intended purpose, placing more emphasis on impounding the vehicles of sober, unlicensed drivers than on removing the most dangerous drivers from our roads. AB 353, in partnership with my bill, AB 1389, will clarify the original intent of the Legislature — as well as cities, counties and law enforcement — with regard to impoundments and help peace officers devote more time, energy and resources toward deterring and catching intoxicated drivers.”
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Hispanic activists’ contend illegal aliens are unfairly targeted and receive the lion’s share of traffic infractions. They also note that these Hispanics earn significantly less than their counterparts and are unable to pay the costly impound fees that can exceed the car’s value.
However, those on the other-side of the aisle believe unlicensed drivers need to pay the price for unlawfully operating a vehicle.
"If we lower this standard, what we are doing is encouraging more people without driver's licenses to be on the roads," said Joel Anderson (R-San Diego and just named the recipient of the American Legislative Exchange Council’s (ALEC) ‘Legislator of the Year’ Award). There is a reason they don't have a driver's license. It's not because they are a good driver."
Anti-immigration activists also warned that the legislation would remove a big deterrent to illegal immigrants driving without a license.
“It seems if there is a law that inconveniences illegal aliens, they [legislators] are willing to change it,” Ira Mehlman, a Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) spokesperson said.
Escondido Police Chief Jim Maher echoes Anderson’s statement that impounding vehicles are a consequence of breaking the law. “We are a rule-of-law city. The traffic-related crime statistics continue to fall by significant numbers in our city. These safety/sobriety checkpoints are working. It’s why the majority of residents aren’t complaining.”
The proposed law would allow drivers to call a family member or friend who is legally licensed to drive to take the vehicle home without paying fines. Proponents of AB 353 also say these checkpoints are set-up as a way to make money for the police departments.
“That notion is ridiculous our traffic safety statistics don’t lie. Our streets are safer because we enforce the law,” Maher finished.
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