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Changing Traffic Checkpoints Laws To Affect Escondido

A new state law that goes into effect in January will have a significant effect on cities like Escondido that impound cars for 30 days if the driver doesn’t have a license.

A new state law - AB 353 - that goes into effect in January will have a significant effect on cities like Escondido that impound cars for 30 days if the driver doesn’t have a license.

Traffic checkpoints are used to deter drunk driving, but impounding vehicles of drivers without a license has raised thousands in fees for cities, and cost illegal immigrants dearly.

A study by California Watch found Escondido has raised as much as $400,000 a year in fees from towing companies with city contracts.

The new law, however, prohibits police from impounding cars immediately if the unlicensed driver finds a licensed driver to pick up the car.

Escondido Mayor Sam Abed says his city is already beginning to change its impound practices.

“We have been doing this anyways at the checkpoints,” Abed said. “If we get someone without a driver’s license, we don’t impound the car right away, we wait until the end of the checkpoints and if somebody shows up with a driver’s license, then they can get the car.”

But that’s not the experience of Bill Flores, a Latino resident of Escondido.

“The exact opposite is the case," Flores said. “Even when there is a licensed driver in the car being driven by an unlicensed driver, Escondido police will impound the vehicle anyway, which would cost the owner of the car up to $2,000 to get the car out, because it would be a 30 day impound."

The new law will only allow police to impound a car for a short time when the driver has no license, resulting in recovery fees of hundreds rather than thousands of dollars.

Los Angeles has already officially changed its policies to reflect the new law, but the change doesn’t officially kick in statewide till January 1. Police can still legally impound cars of unlicensed drivers for 30 days during the holiday checkpoints in December.

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