- Associated Press - Friday, November 27, 2015

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Drivers without valid licenses who are pulled over by police would have to immediately surrender their cars under a bill proposed by a Republican legislator.

Rep. Joe Sanfelippo, of New Berlin, began circulating the bill for co-sponsors on Tuesday. He said in a memo to his fellow lawmakers that the bill would help stop drunken drivers who have lost their licenses from getting behind the wheel.

“We have to stop letting reckless drivers continue to negatively impact the lives of anyone who gets inside a vehicle,” he said in a news release. “It could happen to your family or someone you know next.”

Currently, a judge can impound a car as part of the punishment for driving without a valid license if the driver owns the car. The length of the impoundment is up to the judge.

Under the bill, a police officer would be required to immediately impound the vehicles of those caught driving without a valid license. The officer would have to contact any rental or leasing agency registered as the car’s owner, as well as any lienholders. Police wouldn’t have to impound the vehicle if the driver’s license expired in the six months before he or she was stopped and the driver hasn’t been charged with operating without a license in the past.

If the vehicle isn’t claimed within 30 days of the end of the impoundment period it could be sold.

The bill also would require anyone registering a vehicle with the state Department of Transportation to show a valid driver’s license.

Sanfelippo has given his fellow legislators until Dec. 8 to sign on to the measure. No groups have registered with the state to lobby on the measure since it hasn’t been officially introduced.

Molly Gena, a lawyer with Legal Action of Wisconsin, which represents poor clients, told the Wisconsin State Journal that most of Wisconsin driver’s license suspensions and revocations stem from failing to pay fines rather than poor driving. The bill would punish poor people by preventing them from getting to work and looking for jobs, she said.

A call The Associated Press made to Legal Action of Wisconsin’s Madison office went unanswered Friday.

A spokeswoman for Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, said in an email Friday that Vos’ office was closed and couldn’t immediately comment on the legislation.

Both the Assembly and the Senate have recessed for the holidays and aren’t expected to reconvene for floor votes until at least mid-January.

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Follow Todd Richmond on Twitter at https://twitter.com/trichmond1

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