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Issue Position: Vehicle Impounds

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Issue Position: Vehicle Impounds

The Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeal opinion in Miranda v. City of Cornelius and the California Court of Appeal opinion in the case of People v. Williams, have found impounding vehicles on the sole charge of driving without a license [absent consideration of the community caretaker doctrine] unconstitutional. Specifically, if a car is legally parked and does not impede traffic or create a public safety hazard, it may be unreasonable seizure of property.

The court rulings have not vacated state statutes related to vehicle impounds and peace officers retain the discretion to remove vehicles posing a public safety threat. Driving without a license is still against the law, and drivers will be cited and fined. However, the rulings do imply that statutory authorization does not, in and of itself, determine the constitutional reasonableness of the seizure.


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