News from the Tennessee Valley State, Local and National news
TUESDAY, JUNE 26, 2007

Drive without license, lose car
Athens council passes
impound ordinance

By Bayne Hughes 340-2432

ATHENS — If you don't have a driver license, be prepared for the Athens Police Department to impound your vehicle if an officer pulls you over or you're involved in a wreck.

The Athens City Council passed an ordinance, following the lead of Huntsville, Madison and Hoover, that allows an officer to call a tow truck if he catches you driving illegally.

Police Chief Wayne Harper applauded the council for passing the ordinance.

He said the number of people driving without a license in Athens rose in the past five years. He said he is seeing more driving under the influence arrests in which the suspect doesn't have a license or is driving with a suspended license.

"If they don't have a driver license, they probably don't have insurance because you can't get insurance without a license," Harper said. "Every year it gets worse as the city gets bigger."

Harper said the department even had accidents involving police officers in which the other driver didn't have a license and insurance. The city had to pay for the repairs.

The city has not set the fee structure for the new ordinance. Harper said the violation fine is usually $20 plus court costs, but increases with prior convictions. He said the city would probably charge about $85 for the towing, a $15 to $20 storage fee plus an undetermined administration fee.

Harper said he plans to require violators to pay their fees to the police department, which would give them the paperwork necessary for the towing company to release the vehicle.

According to the ordinance, if the violator does not claim vehicle within 60 days, the towing company can sell the vehicle and keep the profits.

Harper said the police department could keep the profits, but it doesn't have an impound lot and state law allows towing companies sell the vehicles for profit.

There are several instances in which the officer won't impound a vehicle:

  • If he can confirm that you have a legal license even though it's not on your person.

  • If you forget to renew or the renewal date passes you by, the officer won't impound if it's been less than 60 days since your renewal day.

  • If there is an owner of the vehicle or another family member present with a legal license.

  • If there is a medical necessity jeopardizing life or limb.

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