I need some armchair legal advice about a messy situation involving a car I sold 2 years ago coming back to haunt me. I never got a bill of sale when I sold the car- now it's in police custody, and I'm liable for fees and possibly implicated in whatever this car's been into.
posted by inweaknessbe to Law & Government (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
TL,DNR: Never got a bill of sale when I sold my car 2 years ago. Last week the car shows up in police custody with all kinds of fees attached to it and I am liable for them, being the last registered owner. I can't prove I sold the car. I want to scrap it with a duplicate title I just got for it, but I'm afraid that the other guy will show up with his title after I do that- or worse, that I might end up implicated in any criminal charges associated with the car. What can I do?
LONG VERSION: Two years ago, I bought a new car at a dealership. I was haggling with them over the amount that I would get for my old car as a trade in- it was basically worthless, but I wanted something and the dealership wouldn't budge. My salesman finally said, "Here, let's take a look at it. Come with me." We drove it to the parking lot next door, where there was someone waiting for us. "This is my brother. He'll buy the car for $200." I accepted the offer, took the $200 in cash, signed the title over to him, and he took the car. I didn't get a bill of sale. I transfered my plates to my new car, registered it, and went about my business.
Last week, I got a letter from the Hartford Connecticut police department telling me that "my" old car was in police custody. It had been towed to a local auto body shop where it was being stored. I was responsible for any charges incurred- towing, ongoing storage, abandoned car penalty. The person I'd sold it to hadn't registered or insured the car.
I called my salesman at the dealership twice. The first time, he said he would try to get in touch with his brother. I recieved a call not long after from some OTHER guy, apparently a friend of the guy I sold the car to. HE told me he would also try to get in touch with the guy I sold the car to. Neither of them could give me the contact info of the guy- they claimed they didn't have it.
According to the police station, the auto body shop, and the DMV, I am indeed responsible for the fees attached to the car- it's legally still my car. There's apparently no way that I can prove otherwise. Everything was under the table at the dealership, there was no bill of sale, and I was the last registered owner.
The next day, I called my salesman again. This time he denied any responsibility and hung up on me.
Having no doubt now that I'm dealing with scumbags, I visted the police station again and informed them of the situation. They were generally unhelpful and told me it was something I had to straighten out myself, but I did obtain the police report from the towing. The guy driving the car wasn't the guy I'd sold the car to. It said that he was pulled over because the car was unregistered. He didn't have a license and there were false plates on the car. He was arrested and had already had a court hearing.
I visisted the auto body shop. At this point I'd love to just pay the fees and scrap this car- but they of course need the title in order to do anything with it. I don't have it- the other guy does. The police report gave me his phone number and address. I called his phone multiple times. No answer. He finally texted "Who is this?" I explained that it was the previous owner of the car, and that all I wanted to know was what he wanted to do with it. If he wanted it, he could have it- just pay the fees. If he didn't want it, I would scrap it, and we'd get on with our lives. However unlikely, I didn't want him to show up with his title afterwords and be angry because I scrapped his car. He texted back denying being the person in question, saying he'd never heard of that person. I said alright and never texted again.
Still having every legal right to the car, I ordered a duplicate title from the DMV. It came in the mail today. There is a note on this title saying "This is a duplicate certificate and may be subject to the rights of a person under the original certificate." That worries me a bit.
Here's my plan- check with the police and the DMV before going to the auto body shop with this duplicate title and scrapping this car. I want to make sure I have every legal right to scrap this car, and that I'm not going to end up in court because this guy is pissed that I scrapped his car.
The much, much likelier case is that this guy wants only to disappear and leave the car and the fees and this whole mess to me. This is also worrying, because if there are any other crimes associated with this car, I may be liable. This car could have been used to transport drugs or do drivebys for all I know. If any of that were to be the case, I would probably be implicated, being the legal owner of the vehicle.
As it stands, I've spoken at length to the Hartford PD, the DMV, and the auto body shop storing the car. I've made every attempt to get into contact with the person who was driving the car to try and sort it out- I even knocked on his door (against my better judgement). I've taken notes of who I've talked to and when, and what they've told me. My plan at this point is, like I said, to check with the police and the DMV again and inform them of my intentions to scrap the car, and then go to the auto body shop and scrap the car. I plan to get all KINDS of written proof of everything at the auto body shop when I pay the fees and arrange for them to scrap the car. Then I intend to inform the DMV and the police that I scrapped it. Then I intend to get on with my life. Lesson learned the hard way- always always get a bill of sale, and send it to the DMV the next day. This was my first time selling a car, and I wasn't aware of this process or its importance.
Is there anything else I'm overlooking? What can I do to as much as possible absolve myself of anything to do with this car and this situation?