Assembly votes to help unlicensed drivers
The Legislature is moving to give unlicensed drivers more of a break.
Last year, the Legislature passed a bill that Gov. Jerry Brown signed that prohibited police from impounding cars of most unlicensed drivers stopped at DUI checkpoints.
On Thursday, the Assembly approved 46-24 a measure that would extend that prohibition to routine traffic stops.
“In California, we allow unlicensed drivers the opportunity to buy cars, register them and buy insurance, but at the first incident where they may be stopped for not having a tail light on, instead of getting a ticket, they are given a citation and their vehicle is impounded,” the bill’s sponsor, Assemblywoman Fiona Ma, D-San Francisco, said in a statement .
“At a time when people are struggling to make ends meet, impounding vehicles from hard working people who need their vehicles to get to work, to take their children to school or to go to their doctor’s appointments is unconscionable.”
The bill, AB1993, which now goes to the Senate for consideration, has drawn wide support from immigrant advocates and Latino groups because many unlicensed drivers are illegal immigrants who are barred under state law from getting licenses. An unlicensed driver’s car now can be impounded for up to 30 days and usually the owner must pay a hefty fine to get it back.
Under the bill, a police officer who stopped an unlicensed driver in a routine traffic stop could not impound the car if the car could be left parked at the scene or moved to a nearby spot. The unlicensed driver would have to sign an agreement releasing the officer and police department from any liability for leaving the car.
Or, under the bill, the car could be turned over to a licensed driver. If the licensed driver wasn’t a passenger, then the unlicensed driver could call a friend or relative who has a license and the car would be turned over to the licensed driver if he arrived within a “reasonable amount of time.”
If the unlicensed driver didn’t have a phone to call the friend or relative, the bill says the officer could at his discretion help contact that licensed driver.
If these options weren’t available and the car had to be impounded, the bill would require the officer to get permission first from a supervisor.
AB 1993 still would allow impounds of cars of drivers with past serious driving convictions, such as DUI.