Raleigh, N.C. — A state House committee this week will debate a proposal to require vehicles driven by unlicensed drivers to be towed away from a traffic stop unless a licensed driver can be quickly found to drive the car away.
House Bill 341, sponsored by Rep. George Cleveland, R-Onslow, is scheduled to be heard in the House Judiciary I Committee on Wednesday.
Under the proposal, any driver found at a traffic stop to be driving on a suspended, revoked or expired license or having no license at all would not be allowed to drive his or her vehicle away after being charged. The driver would have one hour to produce a licensed driver who can legally drive the car away. If that's not possible, the car would be towed and impounded.
The owner of the vehicle would be able to reclaim it by bringing a valid driver's license and, if the owner didn't know the driver was unlicensed, a written acknowledgement to that effect, and would have to pay all towing fees and storage fees of no more than $10 per day. If the vehicle isn't reclaimed within 90 days, the tow service operator would be free to dispose of it.
An early version of the measure did not include drivers whose licenses have been revoked, but Cleveland told WRAL News that that was an oversight and that he intends to add that provision at the bill's next hearing.
The proposal has been denounced as "anti-immigrant" by immigrants' rights activists, who say it's intended to target undocumented immigrants who are not permitted to get driver's licenses. However, the likely effect of the bill would reach far beyond the immigrant community. In fiscal year 2015-16, law enforcement agencies around the state reported issuing more than 125,000 citations for driving with a revoked license.
The measure is the third of a trio filed by Cleveland this session. Another measure, House Bill 308, would similarly require the towing of cars of drivers who don't have valid insurance. That bill passed the House Insurance Committee last week.
A third measure, House Bill 471, which was approved by the House Judiciary II Committee last week, would add a $400 fine for a second charge of driving without a license. On the third charge for that offense, the driver would forfeit his or her vehicle to law enforcement.