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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    UAPD citations leading to lost vehicles

    A significant fraction of UAPD traffic stops resulting in citations involve motorists who are driving on a suspended license or with no license at all, putting other drivers at financial and personal risk in the event of an accident, and risking temporarly loss of their vehicles.

    In the first half of October, UAPD issued 18 traffic citations, 15 of which were for unlicensed motorists or people driving on suspended licenses.

    One of those citations was issued to Michelle Closs, a recent UA graduate, whose license was suspended after she received multiple speeding tickets.

    “”It was horrible,”” Closs said. “”Because I had an infraction on my license, it was a mandatory impound.””

    Closs commuted from her campus-area home to Marana, where she manages a personal training and massage therapy studio, for two months without a valid license before she was stopped Oct. 10 for expired registration on her 1994 Oldsmobile.

    “”I have to get to work,”” she said. “”I only use my vehicle to go from home to work.””

    Under an Arizona law that passed in November 2005, drivers cited for offenses such as driving under the influence and driving on a revoked or suspended license have their vehicles impounded for 30 days and are subject to towing fees, storage fees and a $150 administrative fee, said Sgt. Eugene Mejia, public information officer for the University of Arizona Police Department.

    UAPD has impounded 529 vehicles since November 2005, according to department records. That figure includes 168 DUI offenses between November 2005 and the end of 2006. The number of DUI citations to date in 2007 could not be obtained before press time.

    Of those 529 impounds, the non-DUI cases were all license violations, Mejia said.

    “”I don’t see the point behind mandatory impounding of a car,”” Closs said.

    On Oct. 6, Allisyn Keyser, a creative writing senior and Wildcat reporter, was pulled over for driving with expired registration, when the officer discovered she was also driving with a suspended license for failure to appear in court on a speeding violation.

    She had to pay more than $1,000 in penalties and fees.

    “”It’s a definite hardship for people like me,”” she said. “”I have to work my way through school.””

    In an effort to change the behavior of driving without a license, the state Legislature decided that, if they remove the vehicle from the driver’s possession and the roadway, there would be a greater impact on offenders, Mejia said.

    “”The car is impounded but you have to jump through all these hoops to get your car back and how can you do that when you can’t drive there,”” Keyser said, adding that she had to go through the court, the cops and the impound lot before getting her car back.

    The primary reason for cracking down on unlicensed drivers is that they usually do not have insurance, presenting a significant financial risk to anyone with whom they happen to collide, Mejia said.

    “”What they’re finding is that not only are these people not licensed, they are also not insured, so the people that end up paying for the

    damages that they incur are the victims in the case,”” he said.

    Drivers who commit criminal traffic offenses risk losing their driving privileges, and repeat offenders can face jail time, Mejia said.

    “”There’s more of an intent there to violate the law than just not paying attention and running a red light, because they knowingly commit the offense,”” he said. “”If you’re on the receiving end ð- on the other end – when you get hit by one of these unlicensed, uninsured drivers, you’ll see why the law exists.””

    Closs had been making payments to get her license back at the time she was cited, she said. The additional fees she incurred have only hampered her efforts to do so.

    “”It just made it harder and harder to make me a legal driver,”” she said.

    While data on the precise number of unlicensed Arizona motorists is difficult to obtain, the Tucson Weekly, in its Feb. 9, 2006 issue, cited Jim Frederikson, executive director of the Arizona Insurance Information Association, estimating the number of uninsured drivers to be at 16 percent.

    For unlicensed drivers thinking about driving, Closs had only one piece of advice to offer.

    “”Make sure you’re driving a completely legal vehicle,”” she said. “”Make sure they don’t have a reason to pull you over in the first place.””

    Keyser said the process of getting her car back was stressful and aggravating.

    “”I know that it has to be that way,”” she said. “”It’s just annoying that it happened to me.””

    15: of 18 total UAPD traffic citations were for people driving without a license or with a suspended license in the first half of October 2007

    529: vehicles have been impounded by UAPD since law* went into effect in November 2005

    168: of the impounded vehicles belonged to drivers who received DUI offenses

    16: percent of Arizona drivers who are unlicensed, according to a Feb. 9, 2006 Tucson Weekly article

    *Vehicles are impounded for 30 days, and drivers are charged towing and storage fees, along with an administrative fee of $150

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