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Louisiana Legislators Narrowly Reject Car Seizure for Littering
Louisiana comes within two votes of enacting a bill authorizing the seizure of cars being driven by people who litter.

Representative Karen St. Germain
Louisiana lawmakers came close to enacting legislation that would have confiscated vehicles driven by people accused of littering. The bill failed in the House 49 to 46 on Monday after having cleared the state Senate last week by a 34 to 1 vote. Had two state representatives switched their votes, the measure would have been sent to the governor.

Existing law already provides that a third conviction for littering should be punished by a minimum fine of $1500 and a maximum of $5000, a one-year driver's license suspension, up to thirty days in jail and up to 100 hours of being forced to pick up litter at the side of the road. The judge can also convert the monetary fines and other penalties into more time picking up litter. The proposed legislation would have added confiscation of the "motor vehicle, boat, or conveyance being driven by the offender at the time of the offense." The bill's House sponsor defended against attacks that the measure would lead to cases where cars would be unfairly seized from innocent vehicle owners.

"We do laws every day that go before a judge, and he is a judge because he or she is smart enough to go between what's legitimate and what's not," Representative Karen St. Germain (D-Plaquemine) said. "This is a major issue -- the entire [Natural Resources] Committee voted it out unanimously because it is an issue that has to be addressed. And since Katrina, Gustav, Ike we've had a lot more of this going on."

Under the legislation, impounded vehicles would be sold at auction with the revenue split 10 percent to the towing company, 30 percent to the local police or investigative agency, 10 percent to the indigent defender board, 20 percent to the prosecutor and 30 percent to the state. The vehicle would be seized regardless of whether the offender was also the owner of the car. A bank or other lien holder on a leased car would have to pay "all towing and storage fees" before recovering their property.

"We're making the banks pay all the penalties for the criminal," Representative John LaBruzzo (R-Metairie) said. "Why do we want to get the banks involved in the process of littering? ...This sounds like a great bill for the towing industry to try to get them some business."

Representative Joseph P. Lopinto III (R-Jefferson Parish) moved to postpone consideration of the bill indefinitely, which, in effect, kills the bill for the session. A copy of Senate Bill 270 is available in a 25k PDF file at the source link below.

Source: PDF File Senate Bill 270 (Louisiana State Legislature, 6/20/2011)

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