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Denver City Council Defends Decision To Repeal Impound Law

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The Denver impound lot (credit: CBS)

The Denver impound lot (credit: CBS)

DENVER (CBS4) – Members of Denver City Council are defending their decision to repeal a law passed by voters. The council voted 9-1 Monday night to overturn the law.

The initiative requires that the cars of unlicensed drivers be impounded and that the drivers pay $2,500 in bonds and fees.

The Denver City Charter gives the council the power to repeal any law passed by voters with a super majority vote.

Supporters of Initiative 100 say it was a law designed to send a clear message to people driving in the city of Denver — that unlicensed driving would not be tolerated. That message was carried out by an unusually high financial penalty if someone was caught without a license and their car was impounded. The $2,500 bond also didn’t include towing and impound fees.

Jeanne Faatz was the council member who voted not to repeal the law at Monday’s meeting.

“I think it’s very discouraging to voters to have gone to the polls, expressed an opinion, and then have elected officials overturn that opinion,” Faatz said. “We had a policeman who testified that this was a very effective law; that officers were not targeting people because of ethnicity; that they were simply trying to be sure unlicensed drivers were not driving.”

Councilmember Paul Lopez has been outspoken in his efforts to repeal it, saying it unfairly targeted illegal aliens. The wording actually was in the original ordinance. He also argues it opened the city up to lawsuits, and that they have dealt with legal issues already that the city can’t afford.

“If they’re innocent, then give them their car back and return (what amounts to) almost two months pay for some of them,” Lopez said.

Since the bond was so expensive, many cars that weren’t even worth that much went unclaimed and were sold at auction, generating more opposition from some city leaders who say overcrowding became a huge problem.

“What Initiative 100 didn’t do is for the folks who did have a license and were innocent; it did not give them any due process to prove their case. That’s a clear violation of the constitution,” Lopez said.

City leaders also said the law did not generate money for the city like some had hoped.

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