Vehicle impoundment

Read with interest an update on the anti-hoon legislation in Victoria – 1038 vehicles impounded over the past three months since the period of impoundment changed from 48 hours to 30 days. Sounds like a lot of cars and a lot of hoons – wonder how many don’t have their cars seized when they should have or because they just do not get caught.

Police Deputy Commissioner Kieran Walshe said the results were concerning but sent a strong message to would-be hoons – “This is outrageous behaviour on the state’s roads and places not only these motorists at risk, but other innocent road users … It’s concerning that 310 vehicles have been impounded for unlicensed driving. These are drivers that should not be on the road. If you have been suspended or disqualified from driving, it’s for a good reason.”

Sounds fair enough to me. But as a contrast, over in San Diego at the moment and front page of the news was the passing of a Bill to change the impound laws for seizing vehicles from unlicensed drivers because 30 days was seen to be too harsh.

It would appear that police have been criticised for holding sobriety checkpoints (similar to what in Victoria we would call a booze bus) concentrated in areas where they are more likely to intercept illegal immigrants who just by chance do not hold a licence or are disqualified from holding one.

Police defend the setting up of these checkpoints in these locations because the locations are intelligence based. Chris Cochran, an assistant director of the California Office of Traffic Safety, said driver’s license checkpoints serve a needed purpose. “People who drive without a license, no matter why they don’t have one, are disproportionately more dangerous to themselves and others,” Cochran said. “Although accounting for less than 10 percent of drivers, they are involved in 20 percent of all fatal crashes, killing an average of 8,000 people a year nationwide. Every allegation that OTS has looked into involving allegation of targeting Hispanic neighborhoods has ended up showing a noticeable correlation between checkpoint placement and DUI crashes and arrests, no matter the type or demographics of the neighborhood.”

See the contrast with what Kieran Walshe said, and then see the changes to the legislation – because of the belief that police are targeting illegal immigrants rather than drunk drivers the San Diego law has changed from a 30 day impoundment to no impoundment as police must now first make reasonable inquiries to release the vehicle to a licensed driver representing the vehicle owner at the time of interception or as soon as possible afterwards.

Police say they have always had the discretion – civil libertarians said they are using current laws to push out illegal immigrants.

And Deputy Commissioner Walshe says if you don’t have a licence then you deserve to get caught. Wonder if in several years time we will be looking for a change because a certain class of person is seen to be disadvantaged? However, I always think that no matter who or what you are the law is there for a reason and no-one but yourself is responsible for breaking the law.

(As an aside – Kieran Walshe reported in three months in Victoria 310 vehicles have been impounded from unlicensed/disqualified drivers – on one Friday night in Escondino 21 vehicles were seized from unlicensed (17)/disqualified drivers (4))

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