Motorists driving on suspended licenses in Bremerton will soon face the prospect of having the vehicle impounded for 14 days.
Bremerton Police Chief Steve Strachan said the newly approved ordinance will allow officers to continue “focused enforcement,” or what is sometimes called “swift and certain enforcement.”
“It’s focused on high rate offenders, the relatively small group of individuals that every community has, that will often drive (with) a very high frequency of offenses which sometimes can be viewed as minor,” Strachan told the city council last week.
Strachan said that those “minor crimes,” such as theft, trespassing, vandalism, drug sales, mail theft, driving without insurance and others can have a big impact over the long haul.
“They are sometimes viewed as minor but they are very significant crimes when it comes to the quality of life of the victims and the people who experience them,” Strachan said.
The new impound ordinance specifically targets “a layer of individuals who are driving while suspended, who are basically flouting the law and repeatedly going back to court again and again,” he said.
“To get your vehicle impounded under this ordinance, you would really, really have to be a frequent flier,” noted City Council President Greg Wheeler.
The ordinance will allow an officer to use his or her discretion in deciding whether or not to impound a vehicle being driven by someone who is suspected of driving with a suspended license in the first or second degree. Those whose licenses are suspended in the third degree, often for failure to pay tickets or fine, will not face the prospect of vehicle impoundment.
Bremerton City Attorney Roger Lubovich noted that the cost of the new 14 day impound, including towing and fees, could easily exceed $900.
The ordinance also allows for a waiver process for folks facing hardship.
“Of course it’s reasonable to turn the vehicle over to a spouse or family member that may be impacted in a very difficult way,” Strachan noted.
Lubovich and Strachan, noting that the city of Poulsbo impounds vehicles for 30 to 90 days, both think that a 14-day impound is sufficient.
“I think 14 days is reasonable,” Strachan said. “It sends a strong message without being unreasonable or onerous. The strong message is, don’t drive on a suspended license in the city of Bremerton.
That message is going to get around very quickly to drivers who drive chronically on a suspended license.”
The ordinance was approved unanimously by the city council.