September 25, 2012

A Los Angeles Superior Court judge has ruled that two community organizations may intervene to help defend a city policy relaxing when police may impound the vehicles of unlicensed drivers. Judge Terry Green today allowed the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights Los Angeles (CHIRLA), and LA Voice, represented by the ACLU of Southern California, to intervene in a lawsuit challenging the city’s Special Order 7, which allows unlicensed drivers to avoid impoundment if they have valid identification, insurance and registration. 
“We’re pleased we’ll be able to help the city defend Special Order 7,” said Lucero Chavez, staff attorney with the ACLU of Southern California. “Impounds have a disproportionate impact on poor and immigrant families, and in fact, we have evidence that some law enforcement agencies deliberately target Latino drivers because they assume they’ll be driving without a license. Special Order 7 goes a long way toward helping restore the trust between law enforcement and the community.”
The Los Angeles Police Commission approved Special Order 7 in February. In the three months that followed, challenges to the policy were filed by the Los Angeles Police Protective League, in April, and in May by conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch. Judge Green consolidated the cases last month.
"We are grateful that the judge deems it important that the voice of those closest to the pain be represented in this lawsuit, which impacts them more than anyone else in the courtroom,” said Minister Zachary Hoover, executive director of LA Voice. “Special Order 7 isn't just the right thing to do for a hurting and poor people, it's a constitutionally sound and legal policy that increases community and police trust and therefore safety. For this reason, we are proud to stand with our city for our families and grateful for the opportunity granted by the judge's decision."
“Special Order 7 establishes a small but significant change to LAPD’s vehicle impound procedures,” said Joseph Villela, director of policy and advocacy at CHIRLA. “It also recognizes that 30 day impounds are a harsh penalty that is not warranted in all circumstances. It has strengthened the trust between LAPD and immigrant communities and enhances public safety. We are pleased with the court’s decision to allow the ACLU of Southern California to defend Special Order 7 on behalf of CHIRLA and its members.”
The city has also filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit. A hearing has been scheduled for November 9.