Beck issued a new directive Friday to replace Special Order 7. "The purpose of this Notice is to provide guidance to officers when making a vehicle impound/removal decision concerning drivers without a valid license," he wrote on the department's internal computer network. In perhaps what was an indication that the city still plans to appeal Green's ruling, Beck added that officers should not adhere to Special Order 7 "until further notice."
The switch from the order returns to officers some level of authority when deciding on impounds, but instructs them to take a common-sense approach spelled out in a legal principle called the Community Caretaking Doctrine. They should, Beck wrote, "take into account the 'totality of the circumstances' to determine whether an impound/removal is appropriate."
For example, Beck instructed, an impound is acceptable if there is no other way to prevent "the immediate and continued unlawful operation" of a car. However, according to the Caretaking Doctrine, if someone else in the car has a license or the unlicensed driver is already at his residence when he is pulled over, then the officer should not impound the car, Beck said.
Beck also tried to clarify for officers the multiple sections of the state vehicle code that authorize officers to use the 30-day hold in some cases and a less severe impound in others, under which a driver can retrieve his car immediately.
Beck repeated on Saturday his belief that the various sections of the code overlap with each other and are confusing for officers. The result, he said, is that unlicensed drivers are left at the mercy of individual officers, some of whom may take a more lenient approach than others.
"Officers should determine which statutory authority is most appropriate for the given circumstance," Beck wrote.
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