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WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 7, 2007
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Hartselle targets unlicensed drivers
City wants vehicles impounded if motorists do not have licenses

By Deangelo McDaniel
dmcdaniel@decaturdaily.com 340-2469

HARTSELLE — If you are an unlicensed Hartselle driver or are only passing through, city leaders want to take you off the road.

Following Athens, and possibly before Decatur acts, Mayor Dwight Tankersley said he will ask the council to pass an ordinance allowing officers to impound vehicles of unlicensed drivers.

"When you think about it, it makes sense and something we probably should have had a long time ago," Tankersley said.

"If an officer stops you, and you don't have a license, he shouldn't allow you to get back in the car," the mayor added.

Athens adopted its ordinance in June. A City Council majority in Decatur said last month it will consider a similar ordinance by year's end.

Tankersley said he got what Athens adopted and what Decatur is considering before asking City Attorney Larry Madison to draft Hartselle's ordinance.

"I wanted to impound vehicles of drivers without insurance, but there's a lot of questions as to whether that is legal," he said.

The measure the mayor will propose to the council Tuesday has safeguards for drivers who have licenses but not in their possession.

It requires officers to make "reasonable attempts" to verify claims from motorists who say they have a license.

Even if the officer verifies a claim, the officer may still issue a ticket for driving without a license, but can not impound the vehicle.

Like most cities in the area, Tankersley said, the number of tickets issued for driving without a license is increasing.

Since Jan. 1, Hartselle officers have issued 104 tickets for the offense.

"The bottom line is that if you don't have a license, you shouldn't be on the road," Tankersley said.

The mayor said he has talked with several wrecker services in the city and they have agreed to impound vehicles if called.

To retrieve an impounded vehicle, the driver has to provide proof of ownership to the Police Department before the city will issue a release to the wrecker service.

Hartselle plans to charge a $25 administration fee, plus the cost of wrecker service, which is $125 for towing and $20 per day storage.

Owners have 60 days to claim impounded vehicles or the wrecker service may dispose of the vehicle as state law prescribes.

If the council approves the ordinance Tuesday, Tankersley said it will become effective by the end of the month.

Decatur is expected to vote on its ordinance Dec. 3

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