BRADENTON -- The Bradenton City Council Wednesday revised its vehicle impoundment ordinance to allow police to impound cars involved in sex or drug crimes.
The City Council approved the ordinance 5-0. It's effective now.
Councilman Patrick Roff said before the vote he was concerned car owners not directly involved in a crime could bear the economic brunt of an impounding.
"I know we had at one point an issue that the driver and the owner of the vehicle had to be there for the impounding," said Roff.
City Attorney William Lisch said a car will not be impounded unless the owner is present. He also said the law will not infringe on Fifth Amendment rights against illegal search and seizure.
"There has to be probable cause present and the own
er has to be in control of the car," said Lisch.
If a car is impounded, the owner can post a $500 bond and retrieve it immediately or ask for a hearing.
Lisch said in an extreme situation a car may be impounded if an owner continually allows a person use of their car to pick up prostitutes or do drugs.
"If a person got busted four times in a row, we might say you know now what's going on," he said.
If the car owner is present during a bust, but not driving, the car may still be impounded if the owner knew the driver was going to commit a crime.
Lisch said the major issue was there used to be no innocent owner defense, which made the seizures illegal, but now there is, which makes vehicle impoundment a legal option again.
In other action, City Council unanimously approved a resolution by Lisch to arrange for invocations before council meetings start. Lisch said he has studied a case for the past three years that came up in the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals where the Atheist of Florida, an organization that promotes the separation of church and state, wanted to bar invocations because they felt the city of Lakeland forced Christianity on citizens.
Although the atheist group lost its case, Lakeland adopted a resolution to inform people when a prayer would be said so they didn't have to participate.
Lisch suggested Bradenton adopt a similar resolution. They also will reach out to religious groups to create a list of people for the invocations. He said it will take a few months to reach all of the groups. Lisch said a disclaimer like this will be announced, "Before our meeting starts we will engage in prayer we'd like if you wish to please stand and join us -- you don't have to."
JANEY TATE, City of Bradenton and Palmetto Reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7041. You can follow her on Twitter at Janey_Tate.