BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    



                                                                  AB 1993
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          ASSEMBLY THIRD READING
          AB 1993 (Ma)
          As Amended  April 17, 2012
          Majority vote 

           TRANSPORTATION      8-2         APPROPRIATIONS      12-5        
           
           ----------------------------------------------------------------- 
          |Ayes:|Bonnie Lowenthal,         |Ayes:|Fuentes, Blumenfield,     |
          |     |Blumenfield, Bonilla,     |     |Bradford, Charles         |
          |     |Buchanan, Eng, Carter,    |     |Calderon, Campos, Davis,  |
          |     |Norby, Solorio            |     |Gatto, Ammiano, Hill,     |
          |     |                          |     |Lara, Mitchell, Solorio   |
          |     |                          |     |                          |
          |-----+--------------------------+-----+--------------------------|
          |Nays:|Jeffries, Miller          |Nays:|Harkey, Donnelly,         |
          |     |                          |     |Nielsen, Norby, Wagner    |
          |     |                          |     |                          |
           ----------------------------------------------------------------- 
           SUMMARY  :  Revises mandatory vehicle impoundment penalties for 
          unlicensed drivers.   Specifically,  this bill  :  

          1)Prohibits a peace officer from towing and impounding a vehicle 
            driven by an unlicensed driver if the vehicle can be legally 
            parked near the scene of the traffic stop and retrieved by a 
            licensed driver within a reasonable amount of time.  

          2)Requires a peace officer to inform the unlicensed driver that 
            the vehicle will not be towed or impounded if a licensed 
            driver can retrieve the vehicle within a reasonable amount of 
            time.  

          3)Authorizes a peace officer to use his or her discretion in 
            allowing a licensed driver to appear to retrieve the vehicle.  


          4)Authorizes a peace officer to use his or her discretion and 
            available resources in assisting the unlicensed driver in 
            contacting a licensed driver to retrieve the vehicle.  

          5)Requires the licensed driver to present a valid driver's 
            license and evidence of financial responsibility prior to 
            assuming control over the vehicle.  









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          6)Requires the registered owner of the vehicle to provide 
            authorization before allowing a licensed driver to operate the 
            car and to sign an agreement holding the police officer and 
            his or her employer harmless for any harm or damage that might 
            result.  

          7)Requires a peace officer to obtain the approval of a 
            supervisory officer before towing and impounding a vehicle of 
            an unlicensed driver and to list the name of the approving 
            supervisor in the incident report.  

          8)Requires the release of an unlicensed driver's impounded 
            vehicle upon presentation of the registered owner's or his or 
            her agent's valid driver's license and proof of current 
            vehicle registration or upon court order.  

          9)Makes related, conforming amendments.  


           EXISTING LAW  :  

          1)Authorizes a peace officer to impound for 30 days a vehicle 
            driven by an unlicensed driver.  

          2)Requires a peace officer to impound, and subjects to 
            forfeiture, a vehicle driven by an unlicensed driver who is 
            the registered owner of the vehicle if that person has a 
            previous misdemeanor conviction for operating a vehicle 
            without a driver's license.  

          3)Authorizes local jurisdictions or a state agency to adopt a 
            regulation, ordinance, or resolution establishing procedures 
            for the release of a properly impounded vehicle and for 
            imposing charges equal to their administrative costs.  

          4)Requires the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to require an 
            applicant for an original driver's license or identification 
            card to submit satisfactory proof that the applicant's 
            presence is authorized under federal law.  

          5)Prohibits DMV from issuing an original driver's license or 
            identification card of a person who does not submit 
            satisfactory proof that the applicant's presence in the U.S. 
            is authorized under federal law.  








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           FISCAL EFFECT  :  According to the Assembly Appropriations 
          Committee, this bill would result in negligible direct state 
          costs.  

           COMMENTS:   Existing law authorizes police officers to impound 
          and hold vehicles for 30 days when the vehicle that is stopped 
          is being driven by unlicensed driver.  The author cites that in 
          most circumstances, when a driver commits a violation, they are 
          cited and allowed to depart from the traffic stop with their 
          vehicle.  The author points out, however, that when an 
          unlicensed driver is stopped, their vehicle is impounded for 30 
          days.  The cost to retrieve these vehicles can be so substantial 
          that in many cases the vehicle is simply never retrieved by the 
          owner.  This situation can add to the economic hardship for 
          undocumented persons and their families, who the author states, 
          are most often affected by these unfair impoundment practices.  

          By introducing this legislation, the author intends to provide a 
          more equitable standard by prohibiting the automatic 30 day 
          impoundment of vehicles driven by unlicensed drivers and 
          instead, allow unlicensed drivers to park the vehicle in a safe 
          location and have a licensed driver come and retrieve it, where 
          possible.  The author notes that this bill would require the 
          unlicensed driver and the licensed driver retrieving the vehicle 
          to assume all responsibility in the event the vehicle injures 
          someone.  

          This bill provides for peace officer discretion regarding the 
          amount of time given for a licensed driver to come and retrieve 
          the vehicle as well as with regard to assisting the unlicensed 
          driver in contacting the licensed driver.  The bill also 
          provides that if a vehicle of the unlicensed driver cannot be 
          retrieved and must be towed and impounded, the vehicle can be 
          immediately released to the registered owner if they present a 
          valid driver's license, proof of current vehicle registration, 
          and pay all required fees.  

          The author notes that this bill is modeled after practices 
          adopted by various California cities in response to recent Ninth 
          U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling upholding decisions that 
          law enforcement cannot impound vehicles if the only offense is 
          unlicensed driving.  Specifically, the federal court recently 
          upheld the Salazar v. City of Maywood, et al. (Ninth Circuit 








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          Case No. Case: 08-56604) on appeal from Salazar v. 
          Schwarzenegger (District Court Case No. CV07-01854).  The 21 
          Salazar plaintiffs sued several municipalities (including the 
          City and County of Los Angeles) and various state officials, 
          claiming that plaintiffs' constitutional due process rights were 
          violated when their vehicles were impounded and that the 
          statutory scheme unfairly impacted undocumented immigrants.  

          The author also claims that the practice of impounding vehicles 
          of unlicensed drivers has resulted in lucrative income for some 
          cities.  In making this claim, the author points to an article 
          published in the San Francisco Chronicle in 2009 that reports 
          the City of Oakland impounded the vehicles of over 2,000 
          unlicensed drivers and in doing so generating revenues totaling 
          over $288,000.  Reports regarding towing and impounding 
          associated with sobriety checkpoints show that many 
          jurisdictions are making money from associated towing and 
          impound fees.  

          Opponents of this bill suggest that the penalty for driving 
          without a license is warranted in order to protect Californians 
          from the harm caused by unlicensed drivers.  Some governmental 
          entities have struggled with this policy, which they believe can 
          lead to liability if it is not followed since municipalities can 
          be sued if there is no impound and the car subsequently is 
          driven and causes damage, or is damaged after the traffic stop.  
          For example, recently, a suit was brought against Solano County 
          for serious injuries suffered by a man when his trailer was 
          struck by a vehicle driven by someone with a suspended license a 
          sheriff failed to impound the unlicensed driver's vehicle during 
          a traffic stop weeks before the accident.  

          Opponents of this bill have also expressed concerns that driving 
          without a license means that the driver is also driving without 
          insurance, a practice that the state has identified as dangerous 
          for other motorists, pedestrians and any individuals that may 
          accompany the unlicensed driver.  Opponents also note that 
          existing law already provides various exemptions for unlicensed 
          drivers and that this bill simply moves California one step 
          closer to condoning vehicle operation without a valid license.  

          Previous legislation:  AB 353 (Cedillo) Chapter 653, Statutes of 
          2011, prohibits the impoundment of a vehicle stopped at a 
          sobriety checkpoint if the driver's sole offense is the failure 








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          to be properly licensed.  

          SB 591 (Cedillo) of 2005, would have exempted from 30-day 
          impoundment, the vehicle of a person who did not have a license 
          because he or she could not meet the requirement that his or her 
          presence in the U.S. was authorized by law.  That bill died in 
          the Senate policy committee.  

          SB 675 (Cedillo) of 2005, would have declared the intent of the 
          Legislature that law enforcement provides safe transportation 
          for persons whose vehicles are seized in specified situations.  
          That bill was vetoed by Governor Schwarzenegger who cited that 
          the provisions of the bill intended to restrict law enforcement 
          by mandating that transportation be provided in a specified 
          manner.  

           
          Analysis Prepared by  :   Victoria Alvarez / TRANS. / (916) 319- 
          2093 


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