Required Vehicle Impoundment A Bad Idea

HB 54 seems like a decent bill on first read.  If someone is caught driving with a suspended or revoked license then the state will require that the vehicle they are driving be impounded. 

Here's the text and analysis of the bill:


AN ACT requiring vehicle impoundment for driving after revocation or suspension.

SPONSORS: Rep. G. Andersen, Graf 11

COMMITTEE: Transportation


This bill requires vehicle impoundment for driving after revocation or suspension.

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Explanation: Matter added to current law appears in bold italics.

Matter removed from current law appears [in brackets and struckthrough.]

Matter which is either (a) all new or (b) repealed and reenacted appears in regular type.




In the Year of Our Lord Two Thousand Nine

AN ACT requiring vehicle impoundment for driving after revocation or suspension.

Be it Enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Court convened:

1 New Paragraph; Driving After Revocation or Suspension; Vehicle Impoundment. Amend RSA263:64 by inserting after paragraph VII the following new paragraph:

VIII. Whenever a person violates the provisions of this section, the law enforcement agency shall impound the motor vehicle that the person operated in violation of this section. The motor vehicle shall be removed and stored in a suitable place, and all reasonable charges incurred as a result of such removal and storage shall be a lien against the motor vehicle which shall be paid by the owner, custodian, or person claiming such vehicle. The owner or other person lawfully entitled to the possession of the motor vehicle shall be entitled to recover the motor vehicle and release of the lien by payment of all reasonable towing and storage charges.

2 Effective Date. This act shall take effect January 1, 2010.

They shouldn't be driving if they don't have a license, right?

Couple problems with this however.

First off there is the question I've already heard raised on whether or not this would violate Article 18 of the NH Constitution.

[Art.] 18. [Penalties to be Proportioned to Offenses; True Design of Punishment.] All penalties ought to be proportioned to the nature of the offense. No wise legislature will affix the same punishment to the crimes of theft, forgery , and the like, which they do to those of murder and treason. Where the same undistinguishing severity is exerted against all offenses, the people are led to forget the real distinction in the crimes themselves, and to commit the most flagrant with as little compunction as they do the lightest offenses. For the same reason a multitude of sanguinary laws is both impolitic and unjust. The true design of all punishments being to reform, not to exterminate mankind.

Secondly there are unintended consequence of this bill.  Take for instance my own personal story from when I moved to NH from CT.  After moving here, my wife and I found an apartment in Derry and looked to have out licenses transferred.  I filled out the needed paperwork and went through all the steps needed.  After a long afternoon at the NH DMV they informed me that my license was suspended and NH would not give me a new one until I cleared the problem with CT.  Now this of course came as a shock because I wasn't aware of any problems with my license in CT.  It turns out the problem was due to communication problems between the two states but if this above law was in effect my car would have been impounded.

This law will also unduly punish entire families as a result of one persons mistakes if they all rely on using a single car.  Or if someone were driving someone else's car.

Lastly there are those who make honest mistakes.  Licenses are due to be renewed every few years and more and more states in efforts to save money are stopping the letters going out to drivers notifying them when their license are due to expire.  I haven't heard of NH doing this yet but some of our neighboring states such as MA have and with our growing budget problems I wouldn't be surprised to see this suggested here.  Since most drivers don't look over their licenses very often, and those well past the drinking age may not even need to display them to others all that often, it is entirely possible that someone made an honest mistake of forgetting when they were due to get it renewed.  Now they would be hit with a sever punishment of not only being fined and penalized if pulled over but would also lose their car to an impound lot.  That would seem an extreme punishment for a minor crime would it not?

So I hope common sense will prevail in our state house when it comes to this bill and the state reps vote it down.