Alabama Abandoned Vehicle Law Amended Effective January 1, 2020


BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF ALABAMA:

Approved and Signed on May 16, 2019

Section 1. Sections 32-8-84, 32-13-2, and 32-13-3, Code of Alabama 1975, are amended to read as follows:

Ҥ32-8-84.

“(a) The following shall be considered an unclaimed motor vehicle:

“(1) A motor vehicle left unattended on a public road or highway for more than 48 hours.

“(2) A motor vehicle, not left on private property for repairs, that has remained on private or other public property for a period of more than 48 hours without the consent of the owner or lessee of the property.

“(3) A motor vehicle, left on private property for repairs, that has not been reclaimed within 48 hours from the latter of either the date the repairs were completed or the agreed upon redemption date.

“(b) A person or entity, as defined in Section 40-12-240, in possession of an unclaimed motor vehicle shall report the motor vehicle as unclaimed to the Department of Revenue within five calendar days from the date the motor vehicle first was considered unclaimed. The report shall be made in a manner as prescribed by the department.

“(c)(1) Upon receiving notice as required in subsection (b), the department shall place a 45-calendar 60-calendar day hold on the title record and no title shall be issued during that time period unless the title transaction occurred prior to the date the motor vehicle was deemed unclaimed or the motor vehicle was returned to the recorded owner or lienholder of record, if any.

“(2) If the motor vehicle was returned to the recorded owner or lienholder of record, if any, prior to the conclusion of the 45-calendar day hold period on the title record, the person or entity who reported the motor vehicle as unclaimed shall report the return of the motor vehicle within five calendar days in a manner as prescribed by the department.

“(d)(1) A person or entity in possession of an unclaimed motor vehicle, upon reporting the motor vehicle as unclaimed to the department, shall utilize the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System (NMVTIS) to determine the current title state of record or, if no current title exists for the motor vehicle, the most recent state of registration for the motor vehicle. Thereafter, the person or entity shall submit a records request to the state of record within five calendar days from the date the motor vehicle was reported as unclaimed to the department.

“(2) The records request shall be sent to the current title state of record in order to obtain the name and address of the owner and lienholder of record, if any. If no current title exists, the records request shall be sent to the most recent state of registration in order to obtain the name and address of the owner.

“(3)a. In the event that no NMVTIS record exists and there is evidence that could be reasonably ascertained by the person or entity indicating that the motor vehicle has been registered in another state, the person or entity, within five calendar days from the date the motor vehicle was reported as unclaimed to the department, shall submit a records request to the state of registration in order to obtain the name and address of the owner. Thereafter, the person or entity shall send notice by certified mail with either return receipt requested or electronic delivery confirmation, within five calendar days from receipt of the title record, to the owner and lienholder of record, if any, or registration record, to the owner of record, advising the owner and lienholder of record, if any, of the location of the motor vehicle, normal business hours of the facility holding the motor vehicle, any accrued charges or fees, the daily storage rate, and the mailing address and contact telephone number of the person or entity in possession of the motor vehicle.

“b. The notice required in paragraph a. shall include the following language in no smaller than 10 point type: “If this motor vehicle is not redeemed by the recorded owner or lienholder of record within 30 calendar days from the date of this notice, the motor vehicle shall be considered abandoned as defined in Section 32-13-1, Code of Alabama 1975. The motor vehicle may then be sold pursuant to the provisions of the Alabama Abandoned Motor Vehicle Act as provided for in Title 32, Chapter 13, Code of Alabama 1975.”

“(4) A person who fails to report a motor vehicle as unclaimed or fails to notify the owner and lienholder of record, if any, in accordance with this subsection shall forfeit all claims and liens for the motor vehicle’s garaging, parking, and storage prior to the time the motor vehicle is reported as unclaimed; provided, however, failure to report shall not result in the forfeiture of claims and liens for the towing and repair of a motor vehicle.

“(e)(1) The department shall maintain and appropriately index public records of unclaimed motor vehicles reported to it pursuant to this section. The department may provide lists of the vehicle identification numbers for such motor vehicles without fee in a manner as the department prescribes.

“(2) The department shall provide notice of unclaimed motor vehicles to law enforcement.

“(3) Notice shall also be provided to the person or entity who reported the motor vehicle as unclaimed if it has been reported as stolen to law enforcement.

“(f)(1) The department may suspend the registration of a vehicle whose theft or conversion is reported to it pursuant to this section. Until the department learns of its recovery or that the report of its theft or conversion was erroneous, it shall not issue a certificate of title for the motor vehicle.

“(2) A title shall be issued by the department in the name of an insurance company on a vehicle that is reported stolen when a settlement between the insured and his or her insurance company has occurred. The title shall be issued electronically in the name of the insurance company until the vehicle has been recovered, and, if recovered, the title may be issued in paper form.

Ҥ32-13-2.

“(a) A law enforcement officer may cause a motor vehicle to be removed to the nearest garage or other place of safety under any of the following circumstances:

“(1) The motor vehicle is left unattended on a public street, road, or highway or other property for a period of at least 48 hours.

“(2) The motor vehicle is left unattended because the driver of the vehicle has been arrested or is impaired by an accident or for any other reason which causes the need for the vehicle to be immediately removed as determined necessary by the law enforcement officer.

“(3) The motor vehicle is subject to an impoundment order for outstanding traffic or parking violations.

“(b)(1) A law enforcement officer who, pursuant to this section, causes any motor vehicle to be removed to a garage or other place of safety shall be liable for gross negligence only.

“(2) A person removing a motor vehicle or other property at the direction of an owner or owner’s authorized agent, a lessee of real property or the lessee’s authorized agent, or a law enforcement officer in accordance with this section shall have a lien on the motor vehicle for a reasonable fee for the removal and for the storage of the motor vehicle.

“(c) A law enforcement officer who causes the removal of any motor vehicle to a garage or other place of safety pursuant to this section, within five calendar days, shall give written notice of the removal. The notice shall include a complete description of the motor vehicle identification number and license number thereof, provided the information is available, to the Secretary of the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency.

“(d) An owner or owner’s authorized agent, or a lessee of real property or his or her the lessee’s authorized agent, upon which a motor vehicle has become unclaimed, as provided for in Section 32-8-84, may cause the motor vehicle to be removed to a secure place. Any person or entity removing the vehicle at the direction of the owner or lessee of real property or his or her agent pursuant to this section shall have a lien on the motor vehicle for a reasonable fee for the removal and for storage of the motor vehicle.

“(e) An owner or lessee or agent of the real property owner and the towing agent or wrecker service employed shall be liable to the owner or lienholder of record for action taken under this section only for gross negligence.

Ҥ32-13-3.

“(a) A person or entity, as defined in Section 40-12-240, in possession of a motor vehicle that is considered an abandoned motor vehicle may sell the motor vehicle at a public auction.

“(b)(1) Notice of the date, time, and place of the sale and a description of the motor vehicle to be sold, including the year, make, model, and vehicle identification number, shall be given by publication once a week for two successive weeks in a newspaper of general circulation in the county in which the sale is to be held, provided the vehicle is currently registered in the county. In counties in which no newspaper is published, notice shall be given by posting such notice in a conspicuous place at the courthouse. The first publication or posting, as the case may be, shall be at least 30 days before the date of sale. A person or entity selling a motor vehicle at public auction under subsection (a) shall give notice of the public auction to the department at least 35 calendar days prior to date of the public auction.

“(2) The notice of public auction shall be in a manner as prescribed by the department and shall include all of the following:

“a. The name and address of the current owner and lienholder of record, if any, as reflected on the current title or registration record of state.

“b. The contact information for the person or entity filing the notice.

“c. The motor vehicle’s identification number, year, make, and model.

“d. The date, time, and location of the auction.

e. If the motor vehicle is not being sold by a bonded agent pursuant to Section 32-8-34, Section 40-12-398, or Section 40-12-414, a statement that the purchaser is required to post a bond pursuant to Section 32-8-36 in order to obtain title to the vehicle.

“(3) The auction shall occur where the vehicle is located. The department, within five calendar days of receipt of the notice of public auction, shall send a motor vehicle interest termination notice to the current owner and lienholder of record, if any, as disclosed on the notice of public auction. The motor vehicle interest termination notice shall advise the owner and lienholder of record, if any, that their interest in the motor vehicle, upon its sale, will be terminated pursuant to this chapter, and personal property and items contained in the motor vehicle will be disposed of in a manner determined by the person or entity conducting the sale.

“(4) The notice shall include all the information provided in the notice of public auction as well as the owner or other interested party’s appeal rights, pursuant to Sections 32-13-4 and 40-2A-8, to contest the proposed sale of the motor vehicle.

“(c)(1) Upon payment of the sales price to a seller who is a bonded agent, pursuant to Section 32-8-34, Section 40-12-398, or Section 40-12-414, the purchaser of the abandoned motor vehicle shall be entitled to, and the person or entity making the sale shall issue, a bill of sale for the abandoned motor vehicle, free and clear of all liens, security

interests, and encumbrances, in a form as prescribed by the department. Upon payment of the sales price to a seller who is not a bonded agent, the purchaser of the abandoned motor vehicle shall be entitled to, and the person making the sale shall issue, a bill of sale for the abandoned motor vehicle, in a form as prescribed by the department. In addition, the purchaser shall post a surety bond pursuant to Section 32-8-36 to obtain title for any sale on or after January 1, 2020.

(2) If the purchaser of an abandoned motor vehicle fails to apply for a certificate of title within one calendar year from the date of the sale, the purchaser shall be subject to posting a bond under Section 32-8-36.

(2) (3) Each person or entity who sells a motor vehicle pursuant to this chapter, for three years from the date of the sale, shall maintain all of the following:

“a. Copies of the notices sent pursuant to subsection (d) of Section 32-8-84, to the previous motor vehicle owner and lienholder of record, along with evidence that the notices were sent by certified mail.

“b. Any associated National Motor Vehicle Title Information System (NMVTIS) records and owner and lienholder records received from any state pursuant to subsection (d) of Section 32-8-84.

“c. Any other records as required by the department.

(3) (4) Notwithstanding any other provision in this section, if the person or entity making the sale of the motor vehicle failed to provide proper notices as required in

subsection (d) of Section 32-8-84, or this chapter, the sale of the abandoned vehicle shall be void and the current owners, registrants, secured parties, and lienholders of record, if any, for the motor vehicle shall retain their ownership, security interests, liens, and interests in the motor vehicle.

“(d)(1) Each purchaser of an abandoned motor vehicle subject to titling shall make an application for a certificate of title unless the motor vehicle is being sold by the purchaser to a licensed automotive dismantler and parts recycler or secondary metals recycler for the purpose of dismantling it or recycling it into metallic scrap for remelting purposes.

“(2) A purchaser of an abandoned motor vehicle who sells an abandoned motor vehicle to a licensed automotive dismantler and parts recycler or secondary metals recycler, in lieu of surrendering the certificate of title as prescribed in Section 32-8-87(s)(1), may surrender the bill of sale for the abandoned motor vehicle to the licensed automotive dismantler and parts recycler or secondary metals recycler. The licensed automotive dismantler and metals recycler or secondary parts recycler shall then proceed with the notice of cancellation procedures as prescribed in Section 32-8-87(s)(1) utilizing the bill of sale in lieu of the certificate of title. The bill of sale shall be subject to the same records retention requirements as those prescribed in Section 32-8-87(s)(1) for a certificate of title.

“(e)(1) If the current certificate of title to a motor vehicle sold pursuant to this chapter is designated a salvage certificate of title, or if the records of the department indicate an application for a salvage certificate of title has previously been received, the new certificate of title issued by the department shall also be a salvage certificate of title.

“(2) The purchaser of a salvage abandoned motor vehicle shall not be permitted to register the vehicle or operate it upon the highways of this state until such time as the vehicle is restored by a licensed rebuilder and inspected by the department as required by Section 32-8-87 and a rebuilt Alabama certificate of title is issued.”

Section 2. This act shall become effective January 1, 2020, following its passage and approval by the Governor, or its otherwise becoming law.

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