Random thoughts on a variety of subjects
by Sam Redman
The recent bombing attempt in New York City, using a vehicle which was sold without any legal transfer of the registration or even any recording of the buyer’s identification, illustrates a current flaw in the laws which govern the sale of vehicles in many states.
The rule (generally everywhere) is that a seller is not responsible for the transfer of ownership with the motor vehicle bureau. Those details are left for the new owner to handle and when a cash transaction takes place often the information on the title form is left blank by the seller (ostensibly to allow the new purchaser to resell the vehicle and not show multiple owners), but even if the new owner’s name and address are filled in, what remains on the state’s computer database is that the seller shows as the owner. And the seller will remain on that database until such time as the buyer chooses to go to the appropriate state office and do the paper work for registration.
When I have sold vehicles in Texas I have simply insisted that the purchaser accompany me to the state vehicle registration offices for an official transfer so that my name would no longer be shown as the registrant, but that is not a requirement by law. I have often explained to the buyer that I don’t want my name associated with a vehicle which might be involved in a crime and it’s a good test, because some potential buyers have refused to participate in a transaction which I required to be conducted properly.
Of course, the law does state that a new owner is obligated to register the vehicle within a certain time period, but the only enforcement is if the new owner is stopped by the police for a traffic violation or some other legal reason, such as expired plates or inspection. But if you sell a car with current tags and stickers, the other person can drive, in effect, as you . And as long as they do nothing to get the attention of the police, he can use that car for any purpose. In Texas, a glance at car ads will show many stating something like, “stickers and plates current until February 2011,” seemingly to attract buyers who are wanting to purchase a car for cash and are not able for whatever reasons (often because they are not citizens) to register the car legally. This method is often the only way that an illegal immigrant can obtain an automobile to drive to and from work.
Such non transferred vehicles are then driven without insurance (which requires proper registration to purchase) until the existing registration and inspection expires (or until they are involved in an accident or a traffic stop or abandon it after a crime).
A simple change in the laws regarding the procedure for the sale of motor vehicles would solve this problem and close an obvious loophole which provides the means for anyone (citizen or not) to secure a vehicle for nefarious purposes.