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OC City Under Pressure to Stop Impounding Cars of Unlicensed Drivers Caught at Checkpoints

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A controversial policy revision at the Los Angeles Police Department means that sober but unlicensed drivers caught behind the wheel at DUI checkpoints will no longer automatically have their vehicle impounded. Now Santa Ana's City Council is being pressured to adopt a similar policy at the behest of activist groups supporting undocumented immigrants, according to the OC Register.

The all-Latino Santa Ana City Council heard several speakers on behalf of the request to adopt a policy like the LAPD's, which accords sober unlicensed drivers at DUI and license checkpoints the opportunity to have their vehicle taken from the scene by a licensed driver before the new last-option of the vehicle being impounded.

Currently in Santa Ana the authorities do follow that practice, however it is on a case-by-case basis, when calls to a licensed driver to retrieve the vehicle "are made at the discretion of the officers at the scene, in cases where they determine that the unlicensed motorist has an otherwise clean record," according to Santa Ana Police Chief Paul Walters.

However, that behavior isn't adequate for the activists, who want the optional practice to become policy. They pressured the Council during their Monday meeting, appealing to the ethnicity of the officials: "All of you are Latino on the City Council, and you should support the common man," one man said in Spanish.

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Activists believe that the cost of impounding vehicles of unlicensed drivers is "an unnecessary burden," and takes away from the often-meager incomes an undocumented immigrant--who cannot by law get a license--earn.

The Santa Ana Council says they will take up the impound policy later this month, however, they dismissed the notion that they have an obligation to act based on their ethnicity.

"My skin is brown, but I represent all walks of life, all nationalities," Councilwoman Michele Martinez said.