Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said he would stop 30-day impounds for first-time offenders and for those without a license, LA Weekly reported Monday. However, a deputy mayor confirmed such legislation is a ways down the pipeline.
Villaraigosa reportedly discussed the topic during a recent interview with La Opinion, which has yet to be published.
Deputy Mayor Peter Sanders told NBC4 News there is merely a draft proposal regarding impounds that would parallel current legislation regarding car seizures at DUI checkpoints.
Immigrant advocacy groups have long argued discrimination by law enforcement against illegal immigrants who are unable to obtain a valid drivers' license, however need a car to get to work.
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The groups have said that police most often place DUI checkpoints in predominantly lower-class areas, where a large amount of undocumented immigrants reside.
Last year a state law was passed that allows sober but unlicensed drivers an alternative to a 30-day impound of their vehicle at checkpoints.
Enforcement officials were sharply against the law that will allow the drivers to relinquish control of their car to a licensed passenger instead of being towed.
"The value and wisdom of impounding vehicles driven by unlicensed drivers is twofold," said Paul Weber, president of the Los Angeles Police Protective League, in a statement released Monday.
"First, an unlicensed driver willing to ignore the law is, at least temporarily, less likely to further violate this law because he or she will not have access to the impounded vehicle," he said.
"Second, the cost and inconvenience of recovering an impounded vehicle discourages people without licenses from driving. That is precisely why the state legislature enacted the 30-day hold law."
Drivers still face a fine under the law that goes into effect in January.
Regarding the mayor's reported comment to La Opinion, Weber said it puts "politics above public safety."
"This new policy will result in innocent people being injured and killed," he said. "It is a sad day for Los Angeles residents because the mayor is directing the LAPD to purposely not enforce a state law designed to protect public safety."