No liability insurance, no car, says Sunnyside

The Sunnyside City Council made it tougher for people to drive Sunnyside's streets without insurance during action at Monday night's council meeting.

In a unanimous decision, the council voted to authorize police to impound vehicles if the driver does not have liability insurance.

City Attorney Mark Kunkler said RCW 46.55.113 grants authority for summary impoundment of vehicles whose drivers are arrested for DUI, physical control and driving while license is suspended or revoked. Certain other circumstances also warrant impoundment when, in the discretion of the officer, the vehicle constitutes a hazard to the safety of the public or the officer.

Furthermore, he said, case law construing the impoundment statutes and authority has recognized that law enforcement officers may properly authorize impoundment of vehicles when enforcement of such authority preserves, promotes and protects the safety of the community and the public welfare. Kunkler said this is known as the community caretaking function.

This is what will allow the city of Sunnyside to enforce this new ordinance, he says.

It will be up to the police officer's discretion to believe a person if they have insurance or not if no proof is available. A car won't automatically be impounded, but a licensed, insured driver would be called to take the car home if one is available. If none is, the vehicle will be impounded.

Vehicles may be redeemed after the legal owner complies with the provisions, which include getting vehicle insurance and paying a $50 administrative fee. The legal owner or authorized person will then get an order they can present to the towing company to get their car back, after paying towing fees of course. These fees are approximately $170.

If a vehicle is towed, the owner of the car will have 72 hours to claim the car at no cost to them if the owner produces proof of insurance.

"We believe there are enough safeguards in place to limit these cases," Kunkler said of the city having to pay the costs of towing if a person does have insurance.

Sunnyside Police Chief Ed Radder told the council there have been 1,939 traffic tickets written so far this year with roughly 10 percent of them written for people driving without insurance.


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