betterstopWhat is the S.T.O.P Program?

In order to reduce the number of hit and run traffic collisions, the National City Police Department implemented the Serious Traffic Offender Program (S.T.O.P) in January of 1998 when it was adopted by the City Council under Resolution 98-8. At the beginning of this program, unlicensed and suspended drivers accounted for 47% of the fatal and felony traffic cases. The goal of the project was to take chronic offenders off the streets by impounding vehicles and/or arrest the driver in order to protect the community of National City.

Driving in California is a privilege, not a Right! You must have a VALID LICENSE to drive.

A driver’s license may be SUSPENDED or REVOKED if:

  • You have been arrested for D.U.I.
  • You have refused a chemical test for blood alcohol.
  • You have been involved in a collision without insurance.
  • You failed to appear in court.
  • You failed to complete a court ordered program.
  • You violated your probation or parole.
  • You failed to provide child support.
  • You have been issued a citation for being an unlicensed driver.
  • You have medical restrictions.

What happens when my vehicle is impounded while I was driving without a valid driver’s license (no driver’s license, suspended/revoked)?

Under California Law, the State of California requires a 30-day hold on your vehicle.

14602.6 (a)(1) VCV states in part – Whenever a peace officer determines that a person was driving a vehicle while his or her driving privilege was suspended or revoked, driving a vehicle while his or her driving privilege is restricted pursuant to Section 13352 or 23575 and the vehicle is not equipped with a functioning, certified interlock device, or driving a vehicle without ever having been issued a driver’s license, the peace officer may either immediately arrest that person and cause the removal and seizure of that vehicle or, if the vehicle is involved in a traffic collision, cause the removal and seizure of the vehicle without the necessity of arresting the person in accordance with Chapter 10 (commencing with Section 22650) of Division 11. A vehicle so impounded shall be impounded for 30 days.

Can I get my vehicle back?

There are certain mitigating circumstances where a vehicle may be released to only the registered owner before the 30-day is up per 14602.6 VCV. The process begins when the officer impounds a person’s vehicle. A courtesy card (in both Spanish and English – see below) is generally given to the driver of the vehicle which states:

  • Why the vehicle was impounded
  • Date the vehicle was impounded
  • A National City Police Department case number assigned to the vehicle
  • The officer who impounded the vehicle
  • And most importantly the phone number where a “Post storage impound hearing” can be scheduled.

Courtesy Card Sample:

A registered owner of the vehicle has 10 days to schedule a post storage impound hearing from the police department through the Traffic Division, located at 1200 National City Boulevard, National City California, 91950, telephone number (619) 336-4420. The Traffic Division will schedule a post storage impound hearing within 48 hours of the request barring the date of the request is before any holidays and/or weekends.

Upon receiving a post storage impound hearing date and time, the registered owner must bring in proof of the following:

  • A valid California driver’s license
  • Proof of current insurance
  • Registration for the vehicle that is impounded.

During the post storage hearing an official or officer will preside over the hearing and listen to the registered owner’s explanation of why their vehicle should be returned before the termination of the 30-day hold. This official/officer will be different than the one who impounded the vehicle. During this hearing, early release will be either granted or denied based on the facts presented in the hearing by the registered owner and by the impound officer’s report.

Do I have any recourse if I was denied early release of my vehicle during the “post-storage impound hearing?”

The “post-storage impound hearing” is not the final word on the matter of releasing the vehicle early. If the registered owner is not successful in having their vehicle returned to them through the post-storage impound hearing, the registered owner may seek an appeal from the San Diego Superior Court. If the registered owner shows good cause for the vehicle to be released and the presiding judge releases the vehicle, then the registered owner returns to the Police Department (with a court order) and the Police Department is mandated to release the vehicle through a court order. There is no liability on the police department for releasing the vehicle early with a court order and the courts and judges have absolute immunity when it comes to liability.

The appeals process from the post storage impound hearing can be started at the San Diego Superior Court, 2nd Floor located at – South County Division is located at 500 Third Avenue, Chula Vista, California 91910, Telephone number (619) 746-6200, website location – www.sdcourt.ca.gov