Removing license plates of illegally parked cars illegal: experts

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Police check a car illegally parked on Le Lai Street, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City

Officials and lawyers say a recent proposal for removing license plates from cars parked illegally in downtown Ho Chi Minh City could be troublesome and violate current traffic laws.

Speaking to Thanh Nien about the proposal made by the District 1 People's Committee, Nguyen Minh Thuan of HCMC Bar Association, said license plates are meant for management purposes, especially in cases of accidents and robberies.

So, if a driver continued to drive a car after its license plate had been removed for illegal parking, and caused an accident after that and fled, it would be very difficult for police to identify the culprit, Thuan said.

Earlier this week, District 1 chairman Nguyen Thanh Kien, , announced that his administration has recently asked for the municipal authorities' permission to remove license plates when violating drivers were not around.

He said the measure aimed to address the fact that many cars, especially taxis, parked wherever they liked, ignoring signs.

Thanh Nien reporters found that the city had once applied the measure, but there were several shortcomings.

For instance, officials who removed the plates did not leave any notice for drivers. Since many agencies had the authority to do it, car owners did not know where to go to get their plates back.

Some car owners ended up applying for a new plate after failing to locate their original one, said a police officer who wished to stay unnamed.

Lieutenant-colonel Nguyen Ngoc Loan of the HCMC's road and railway police division (PC67), said that the measure was given up in 2010, as it was not mentioned in a decree on punishments for traffic violations issued that year.

Therefore, the district's proposal, if approved, would violate the current law, lawyer Tran Cong Ly Tao, vice chairman of the HCMC Bar Association, was quoted as saying in Saigon Tiep Thi.

He said district authorities should first apply regulated punishments like vehicle confiscation and license revocation, instead of "random" initiatives that "could cause bad public reaction." 

If the violations continued despite existing punishments, it would show that current methods of law enforcement had shortcomings, so agencies could then make proposals for amendments, Tao said.

Tran Minh San, another member of the city bar association, also said removing car license plates could be a violation of laws on people's right to property.

Meanwhile, Senior Lieutenant-colonel Tran Thanh Tra, deputy chief of PC67, said District 1 agencies could record of the illegal parking, and ask witnesses or authorities of the localities where the violation takes place to sign the record, when drivers were not available.

They could also take photographs of violating cars and confiscate them if they cause traffic congestions, he said

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In an interview with Thanh Nien, Nguyen Minh Dong, a Vietnamese German transportation expert, said in other countries police locked the wheels of illegally parked cars with a special lock, and left a note with the nearest police station's contact details.

The lock would be opened after drivers paid the fines, Dong said.

"We should learn from other countries to introduce more practical and convincing measures," he said.

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