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Los Angeles, California To Seize Spectator Cars
Los Angeles, California city council wants to confiscate cars from street race spectators.

Street race
The city council in Los Angeles, California is anxious to seize more automobiles from residents. A plan currently under consideration would give police the power to take cars from people who watch other vehicles speed.

"The city should look into ways of discouraging participation in illegal races and exhibitions of speed, such as impounding the cars of spectators," Public Safety Committee Chairman Mitchell Englander wrote.

As the scheme faces significant legal hurdles, the city council last month formally tasked the city attorney to research the topic thoroughly and come up with the text of an ordinance that would achieve the council's goals. The effort has been complicated by a 2007 California Supreme Court decision that overturned Stockton's plan to take cars from motorists not convicted of any crime (view ruling).

"The state allows us to seize and impound vehicles in certain situations," Englander insisted in a September meeting.

The council's proposal would go much further than state law allows by seeking civil forfeiture of vehicles accused of participating in street racing. The vehicles taken would be auctioned or destroyed.

Although discussions of the plan focus on "street racing," the ordinance's draconian penalties would also apply to anyone involved in an "exhibition of speed," which can mean mere speeding on a nearly empty highway, or popping a wheelie on a motorcycle. Spectators would be guilty of aiding and abetting on the theory that they served as an audience for the exhibition or race. Since street races are often widely attended, many more vehicles could be taken in a street racing bust if spectators are part of the round up.

"These activities have become more widespread in recent years, as modern technology and social networking makes it easy for groups to quickly organize illegal races and exhibitions of speed on short notice," Englander wrote.

Confiscation is big business for the city. Towing and storage can run $1100 per vehicle. In 2006, the city generated $14,157,344 in revenue from 175,285 seized vehicles.

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