This blog previously reported that a new California law prohibits law enforcement from impounding cars at DUI checkpoints if the only violation found at the checkpoint involves allegations of an unlicensed driver.

The statewide DUI checkpoint law does not prohibit impoundment if other issues are found at the sobriety checkpoint. And that law also does not apply universally to impounding a car. The city of Los Angeles has been struggling with a much broader policy regarding impounding cars.

Tuesday the Los Angeles Police Commission approved a plan to ease car impounds rules in the city. Owners who have their car impounded generally face stiff storage fees during the 30-day hold. The new Los Angeles impound rules are expected to go into effect in a few weeks, after officers are trained.

However, the eased rules reportedly will not apply in certain situations. Specifically, drivers who are found to be driving with a suspended or revoked license during a routine traffic stop will still have their car impounded for the full 30-day hold.

The new rules allow for shorter holding periods for vehicles impounded after a traffic stop that reveals a driver does not have a valid license, and in some cases , avoid an impound entirely. Generally, authorities say that officers will be instructed to allow a different licensed driver take control of the vehicle if the licensed driver is in the car or otherwise able to arrive “immediately.”

In situations where the car is impounded, if the driver was not driving while revoked or suspended, the owner can retrieve the vehicle from impound at any time, if a licensed driver is present to collect the car.

The new rules do not eliminate the fees altogether, the owner will still be charged a one-time retrieval fee of $228 and a storage fee of $38.50 per day. But the owner can minimize the costs by not having to wait for 30-days to elapse. The owner can essentially pick up the car the same day.

The commissioners approved the new impound rules despite warnings from state lawyers and the Los Angeles County District Attorney who claim the new policy is unlawful.

The LA police chief told the Los Angeles Times that the new rules:

“Will improve responsible behavior among unlicensed drivers. But it is also a fairness issue for people who don’t have the opportunity to get licenses. And it is a chance to build ties with a community that feels marginalized and that my officers have a lot of contact with. It is good to show some sense of understanding of their plight.”

Source: Los Angeles Times, “L.A. Police Commission approves easing of car impound rules,” Joel Rubin, Feb. 29, 2012