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Santa Ana changes rules on car impounds for unlicensed motorists

September 28, 2011 | 10:57 am

Starting Saturday, Santa Ana police will have to wait at least 20 minutes before impounding the vehicle of a driver who doesn't have a valid driver's license.

However, the unlicensed driver still will be cited, said Carlos Rojas, deputy chief of the Santa Ana Police Department.

Right now, it’s up to the officer on how long to wait to allow the chance for a licensed driver to come for the vehicle before impounding it.

A 30-day hold on a vehicle will now be authorized for drivers who have been cited for driving without a license once in the previous nine months or twice in the previous three years, Rojas said.

The city Public Safety Committee adopted the policy at a meeting Tuesday night, and it will go into effect Saturday for the department’s 330 sworn officers, Rojas said.

Vehicle impound policies after officers stop unlicensed drivers have become lightning rods for controversy in some Southern California cities.

Many of those cited are illegal immigrants, who by law cannot obtain valid drivers' licenses.

In Santa Ana, several pro-immigrant groups brought the issue to the city, and the department worked with them to revise the policies.

Rojas said the new rules were intended to codify many current practices.

Under the current policies, “there was a lot less clarity for the officers and members of the community,” he said.


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-- Sam Quinones