Skip to comments.Judge dismisses suit challenging 30-day impound law (Illegals)
Posted on 09/13/2008 6:54:04 AM PDT by radar101
A federal judge this week dismissed a lawsuit challenging a state law that allows cities to impound cars for up to 30 days when people are caught driving without a license.
U.S. District Court Judge S. James Otero said in his ruling Monday that taking a vehicle temporarily is within the spirit of the law and is necessary to protect the health and safety of "Californians from the harm of unlicensed drivers."
"The concern for the public interest here requires prompt action," Otero wrote.
Immigrant rights activists have criticized strict enforcement of the law because they say it unfairly targets illegal immigrants, who are ineligible for driver's licenses and are forced to drive illegally to work, to visit doctors, and on other necessary trips.
Supporters of the law say it reduces the number of traffic accidents by cracking down on unlicensed drivers.
Civil rights attorneys filed the lawsuit in March 2007 on behalf of about 20 plaintiffs, including two people whose cars were impounded by Escondido police, and named Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Riverside and Los Angeles counties and the cities of Riverside, Escondido, Maywood and Los Angeles as defendants.
The plaintiffs argued that the state's mandatory 30-day impound law was unconstitutional because it constituted an unreasonable seizure. The court disagreed.
Michael McGuinness, Escondido's assistant city attorney, said the city was pleased with the judge's decision.
"We agree with the court's decision that the plaintiffs did not have a case, and the court correctly found that California law allows impounding of cars," McGuinness said Friday.
Cynthia Anderson-Barker, one of the attorneys for the plaintiffs, said the judge issued a narrow ruling by saying that the cities were following the state law, but he avoided addressing whether the law was constitutional. She said the plaintiffs would appeal the decision.
"Why did he do this?" Anderson-Barker asked. "I hate to speculate. Maybe he wanted the 9th Circuit (Court of Appeals) to rule on it rather than him."
Critics of the impound law said they were disappointed with the ruling.
"Just because it's legal doesn't make it right," said Bill Flores, a spokesman of El Grupo, a North County-based umbrella organization of civil rights groups.
Flores said he and his group may seek help from legislators to change the law.
Escondido was singled out in the lawsuit because it is one of the cities that is most strictly enforcing the law, attorneys for the plaintiffs said.
In the last three years, the Escondido Police Department has seized nearly 10,000 vehicles from unlicensed drivers, more than double the number of vehicles impounded by Oceanside, according to city records.
During that same period, the San Diego County Sheriff's Department impounded more than 6,400 vehicles. The department is responsible for patrolling all unincorporated areas of the county and 10 contract cities, including Vista, San Marcos, Poway, Encinitas, Del Mar and Solana Beach in North County.
Escondido police Chief Jim Maher has said the strict enforcement against unlicensed drivers is helping to reduce the number of hit-and-run accidents ---- from 660 in 2005 to 554 in 2007 ---- which he says are caused primarily by unlicensed drivers.
Escondido ranked second among 50 cities of similar size in the number of hit and runs for the year 2006, according to the state Office of Traffic Safety. It ranked third in 2005. Figures for 2007 are not available.
The law that was challenged in the lawsuit, California Vehicle Code section 14602.6, says that if a police officer determines a person is driving without a license, or the license was revoked or suspended, the person's vehicle "shall be impounded for 30 days."
Lawmakers passed the law, known as the Safe Streets Act of 1994, in response to research that showed that:
-- Of all drivers involved in fatal accidents, more than 20 percent involve unlicensed drivers.
-- A driver with a suspended license is four times more likely to be involved in a fatal accident than a licensed driver.
-- Seizing the vehicles used by unlicensed drivers serves a significant public interest.
In their lawsuit, the plaintiffs cited a 2005 ruling by the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals involving an Oregon law. The court found that towing a vehicle merely because a driver is unlicensed is an unreasonable seizure absent a showing that the vehicle posed a threat to public safety.
However, in his ruling, Judge Otero agreed with the defendants that the Oregon case did not apply because "Oregon classifies driving without a license as a traffic violation and not as a traffic crime." Driving without a license is a misdemeanor crime in California.
Critics of the law said that it caused unreasonable financial hardship for violators.
To get their vehicles back, the owners typically must pay as much as $1,200 in towing and storage fees. Those fees have generated nearly $10 million for the city and the towing companies during the last three years, according to city records.
Escondido Councilman Sam Abed said the judge's ruling vindicates the city's policy of strict enforcement.
"It's good news for the city because we are doing the right thing," Abed said. "I don't think it's just a moneymaking business. My goal is not financial. It's taking unsafe drivers off our streets."
Contact staff writer Edward Sifuentes at (760) 740-3511 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Gotta love the logic here. No concern of them being here illegally, but they are concerned that those same people have to drive illegally because of this "unjust" law. Do these people ever listen to what they say?
I’m having trouble seeing how the law targets illegal immigrants.
From my POV, it seems to be targeting unlicensed drivers.
Good for the judge anyway.
OH—Don’t WORRY! One Bill Gin (Cedillo) has his usual bill in the legislature to give Illegals in California drivers licenses.
SB 1301 - California DREAM Act
California Dream Act Approved by
the Califoria State Senate (Vote: 23-13)
Next Step: The bill is in the Assembly Rules Committe
The California Dream Act, SB 1301 (Cedillo) allows U.S. citizen and undocumented AB 540 students to apply for student fininancial aid administered by campus at the California Community Colleges, California State University, and University of California.
We remain committed to this issue and look forward to once again mobilizing the broad coalition of legislative, business, academic and media support of this bill, said Cedillo.
California high school graduates who have been accepted to our premier public colleges and universities may not be recognized as state residents and may be ineligible for state financial aid. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, there are over 25,000 undocumented students who graduate every year from high school. These students confront a difficult challenge of financing their college education because they are ineligible for any federal grants or loans and are unable to legally work.
In short, although these children have built their lives here, they have no possibility of achieving and living the American dream. What a tremendous loss for them, and what a tremendous loss to our society. Republican U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch author of earlier versions of the federal DREAM Act
Ever notice the surnames of the authors of these stories about “immigrants”? Is it because they can interview all the illegals in their own language?
Noted as a staff reporter but appears to champion the Latinos illegal or not.
No Anglos available??
Representing to the community: A federal judge says the University of California can deny course credit to applicants from Christian high schools whose textbooks declare the Bible infallible and reject evolution.
Rejecting claims of religious discrimination and stifling of free expression, U.S. District Judge James Otero of Los Angeles said UCs review committees cited legitimate reasons for rejecting the texts - not because they contained religious viewpoints, but because they omitted important topics in science and history and failed to teach critical thinking
Charles Robinson, the universitys vice president for legal affairs, said the ruling confirms that UC may apply the same admissions standards to all students and to all high schools without regard to their religious affiliations. What the plaintiffs seek, he said, is a religious exemption from regular admissions standards
[I]n Fridays ruling, [Otero] upheld the universitys rejection of a history course called Christianitys Influence on America. According to a UC professor on the course review committee, the primary text, published by Bob Jones University, instructs that the Bible is the unerring source for analysis of historical events and evaluates historical figures based on their religious motivations.
Another rejected text, Biology for Christian Schools, declares on the first page that if (scientific) conclusions contradict the Word of God, the conclusions are wrong, Otero said.
Yeah——seems to me more like they’re “flaunting it” to Americans.
They need to set up the crushers right there at the impound lot and if you have no proof of being here legally your car gets sold or crushed. Most of there cars and trucks are $h!tboxes anyway.
Just exactly how can it even be said that anything "unfairly targets illegal" acts.
"Unfairly targets bank robbers."
"Unfairly targets murderers."
Etc., etc., ad nauseum.
Critics of the law said that it caused unreasonable financial hardship for violators. Isn’t this why they invented Taxi’s and public transportation so you can avoid breaking the law because you cannot legally drive?
Yeah, Sifuentes is notorious for his pro-illegal stance. The NCT trots him out every Sunday to write something that insults Americans, and he almost always follows the same format by interviewing the ACLU and Bill Flores. It’s somewhat interesting that he chose not to mention that Judge Otero is hispanic.
The ACLU always files these case under the Civil Rights Act, which guarantees they’ll get paid their legal fees if they prevail at any stage, or even if the other side just stops doing what they’re doing. They then proceed to bring a bunch of their liberal buddies aboard as co-counsel to run up the bill as high as they can in an effort to try to club the other side into submission. So, of course they’ll appeal, they’re counting on the 9th (America’s most liberal and most reversed Circuit) to give them a win. Even if the Supremes reverse it, they still get the fee award. This kind of game playing is going to continue until the “private attorney general” provision of the CRA is eliminated. We eliminated by referendum a state law that was being misused in much the same way, but Congress hasn’t seen fit to fix this one.
Otero, by the way, is a Bush appointee and he’s noted for his common-sense rulings.