PPL v Los Angeles is a lawsuit in which the ACLU has intervened on behalf of community groups to uphold the legality of Special Order 7 (“SO7”), an LAPD policy that limits the use of punitive 30-day vehicle impoundments for unlicensed driving violations to circumstances in which such a harsh measure is warranted.

When police in California encounter a car being driven by an unlicensed driver, California law gives them the authority (in addition to ticketing the driver) either to store the vehicle or, in certain circumstances, to impound it for a 30-day period.  Many departments have no policies on when and under what circumstances a 30-day impound should apply and discretion is often exercised punitively, raising both Fourth Amendment and racial profiling concerns.  Law enforcement agencies, including LAPD, have been criticized for targeting Latinos on the assumption that they are more likely to be unlicensed (because undocumented immigrants are ineligible for a driver’s license under current California law), and officers themselves have expressed confusion over when and under what circumstances to impound a vehicle.

These concerns underscore the need for policies to guide officer discretion and protect against racial profiling.  This is precisely what SO7 does.

SO7 was challenged in two separate actions by the Police Protective League (“PPL”), the LAPD police officers’ union, and Judicial Watch, a group that advocates for increased immigration enforcement.  The ACLU represents interveners, LA Voice and the Coalition for Humane Immigrants Rights of Los Angeles (“CHIRLA”), two immigrants’ rights organizations whose members have been disproportionately affected by car impoundments and helped advocate for the adoption of SO7.

Case Developments

December 26, 2014

Court rules that Special Order 7 is lawful.

April 8, 2013 & May 8, 2012

PPL and Judicial Watch file suit, respectively, alleging that SO7 is preempted by state law.

July 18, 2012

ACLU files motion to intervene on behalf of LA Voice and CHIRLA.

September 25, 2012

Court grants the ACLU’s motion to intervene.

November 2, 2012

ACLU files a reply briefs in support of the Defendants’ demurrers.

January 22, 2013

Court denies the demurrers, and sets case for trial on September 23, 2013.

Date filed

April 27, 2012


Los Angeles Superior Court


Hon. Terry A. Green

Case number