Thursday, April 4, 2013

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

Allow us to paint a picture for you for just a moment.  You have a car for sale.  A buyer comes and purchases the car.  You sign the title to the car and turn over the keys.  Before the car and buyer leave you tell the new buyer, “The tags are paid up through the end of next month.”  You might even be someone who throws in an additional friendly statement of, “And the insurance card is in the glove box.”  Then the car drives away.  This all might seem like a nice thing to do, but allowing someone to use your license plate is a bad idea and here’s why.

First, the ownership of the car is now transferred and that tag is no longer legal to display on the car.  In most cases, if you’ve just purchased the vehicle and you are taking it home until it is tagged or en route to take it directly to get the tags and you have all of the proof of purchase with you, an officer will take that into consideration should you get stopped without a tag.

Second, that buyer has no interest in that tag.  If it is stolen or lost, they probably won’t file a report about it.  They aren’t all that likely to call you about it being stolen or lost either.

Third, if that tag is used in the commission of a crime of some kind, or it is involved in an accident, you can expect a visit from the police.  While you may ultimately be cleared of any wrong doing, the process to get this explained can be a lengthy and costly one.

Fourth, if that buyer is written a ticket while they are driving the car that still shows to be registered in your name and the state learns that the car does not have insurance, you, as the registered owner in the state’s eyes, may have your driver’s license suspended for allowing a vehicle to be operated without insurance.  You may have sold the car and have proof that you sold it, but the state often suspends first and asks questions later.  In the meantime, your license may remain suspended.

And that insurance comment you may have made can be considered an assumption of responsibility if that car and driver are involved in an accident.

It might be surprising to learn that officers on traffic stops and accident scenes hear, “I bought the car from so and so, but I haven’t gotten it tagged in my name yet,” fairly regularly.  Protect yourself, pull your tag.