L.A. District Attorney Overstepped his Bounds
Los Angeles – Today Attorney General Kamala Harris released an 18-page opinion that a police department can establish guidelines allowing an impounded vehicle to be released in less than 30 days. In February, the Los Angeles Police Commission approved a measure allowing the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) to release the impounded vehicles of an unlicensed driver, when another licensed driver or the registered owner is available, rather than holding the vehicle for the full 30 days. The Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley then interjected his office into the Commission’s decision-making process by issuing an opinion arguing that such a policy would be illegal under state law.
“The District Attorney’s meddling into the internal policy making at LAPD was inappropriate and his conclusions were wrong,” emphasized Senator De León. “As a result I had to ask the State’s top cop and lawyer to weigh in and settle the dispute between the City and the District Attorney. I hope that the opinion will put this to rest so the City can move forward.”
LAPD Chief Charlie Beck has advocated for reducing the amount of hold time for vehicles driven by unlicensed drivers, arguing that impounding cars for 30 days placed an unfair burden on illegal immigrants who cannot get a driver's license in California. Fees for impounds add up daily and can amount to more than $1,000 over 30 days. The new policy, which was approved by the Los Angeles Police Commission in February, allows for a reduced impound time for some unlicensed drivers who are stopped on minor traffic infractions but have auto insurance, valid identification and no previous citations for unlicensed driving.
The Attorney General’s opinion can be found below. You can also find a copy of the March 2, 2012 letter from Senator Kevin de León asking for the Attorney General’s legal opinion.