On Tuesday, the Los Angeles Police Commission, in a 4-to-1 vote, approved a plan that will limit the cases in which police officers impound vehicles of drivers without a license.

Under the new terms, unlicensed drivers who are stopped and meet several requirements, including having auto insurance, a valid form of I.D. and no previous citations will have their cars impounded but will be able to pick up their cars sooner if they’re accompanied by a licensed driver. Currently unlicensed drivers see their cars impounded for 30 days with fines that can exceed $1,200.

The commission called the decision an act of “humanity” and “compassion” toward the city’s undocumented immigrants who are not eligible to apply for a license in the state of California, according to the LA Times.

“I can remember being a police officer in the late 90s and impounding cars, telling mom and dad to take the baby seat out the car, put the baby in it, empty out their trunk because their car is getting impounded for thirty days,” LAPD Commander Andrew J. Smith said in an interview on “Which Way LA?” on Wednesday.

“It is also a fairness issue for people who don’t have the opportunity to get licenses,” LAPD Chief Beck told the LA Times. “It is a chance to build ties with a community that feels marginalized and that my officers have a lot of contact with. It is good to show some sense of understanding of their plight.”

L.A. County sheriff Lee Baca has said before he would back Beck’s plan to issue drivers licenses to undocumented immigrants. Baca himself experienced what happens when immigrants feel like police don’t have an “understanding of their phlight” when parents of students who had been sexually violated by a Los Angeles Unified School District teacher feared coming forward to police because they were afraid of being deported.

“In approving LAPD Chief Charlie Beck’s proposal for modified car impound procedures, the Los Angeles Police Commission took a stand on the side of fairness and justice for the immigrant community,” said Angelica Salas, executive director for the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA).

California’s undocumented immigrant population is the largest in the nation with an 2.6 million residing in Los Angeles county.

A AAA study found that the number of unlicensed drivers who were ineligible for a license and were involved in fatal crashes was 5% between 2007 and 2009.

Utah, Washington and New Mexico are the only states in the nation that allow residents to access driver’s licenses regardless of immigration status.

Read this online at http://colorlines.com/archives/2012/03/lapd_consider_humanity_and_eases_impound_rules_for_unlicensed_driver.html

Thank you for printing out this Colorlines.com article. If you liked this article, please make a donation today at colorlines.com/donate to support our ongoing news coverage, investigations and actions to promote solutions.