Civil Asset Forfeiture

Judge: Los Angeles's Car-Seizure Policy Violates State Law

Basically theft, really


A judge in Los Angeles, California on Monday found the city's automobile seizure policy overly lenient and contrary to state law. Superior Court Judge Terry Green sided with groups that challenged the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) for inventing a confiscation procedure that differed from procedures laid down by California state lawmakers. At issue is what to do when police pull over an illegal alien, someone who is by definition an unlicensed driver in the state. Judicial Watch, a conservative group, filed suit to force cops to seize and keep cars belonging to illegals for thirty days.

Los Angeles did a brisk business in car impounding until a 2005 decision of the Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals (view ruling) changed the legal landscape. The court found that just because a statute allows a car seizure, it does not automatically make confiscation reasonable for the purposes of the Fourth Amendment. The Ninth Circuit held that there was no reason for police to seize a legally parked car from an unlicensed driver when another licensed driver was present. On April 22, 2012, the LAPD chief issued Special Order 7 to comply with the court ruling, arguing that the guidelines tell officers how exercise their discretionary authority in implementing the state impound law.