This happens all the time, and the radio station has a department to deal with these issues. If you call the car donations hotline, and ask for the red light ticket helpdesk, you will be transferred to someone that might be able to help bootstrap a class action suit. I suspect this situation is the same in most states.
but the key language is:
> Protect Your Liability. Complete a Notice of Transfer and Release of Liability. The seller is responsible for reporting the change of ownership to DMV within 5 days from the date of sale. After DMV updates the information from the Notice of Transfer and Release of Liability, you will be cleared from future liability on the vehicle. The purchaser is responsible for reporting the change of ownership to DMV within 10 days from the date of purchase.
Being liable for a traffic ticket is one thing, but imagine being thought liable for a hit and run collision.
(There are more, contradictory instructions that they mail out with the ticket)
Their database of car registrations is not regularly synced with the DMV, so they routinely send citations to people that do not own the car in question.
There is no process for "the bureaucracy screwed up", so they won't accept a copy of the liability transfer reciept as proof you are no longer liable (nor will they simply contact the DMV).
Of course, since you have no idea what the new owner is up to, you can't provide the information required to contest the ticket.
At this point, things get progressively more bizarre.
Not making the information on general contests (rather than a few narrow cases) readily available makes it more likely that people that rely on only the county site for information won't contest tickets (thinking that there is no procedure available for their circumstance), which reduces costs associated with contested tickets.
There certainly is, whether or not SF County actively provides it to you.
In any case, the state does provide it.
So, you'll be guilty of perjury with clear documentary evidence, but get out of the traffic infraction. Likely pyrrhic victory, there.
And if you sell your car to a dealership (i.e., give it away for pennies because you don't want it anymore) and they say they will do this step for you, assume they are full of shit.
I sold my old Toyota to DGDG in San Jose. I specifically asked them about this step (having experience with the equally kafkaesque Texas Toll Systems) and they told me they'd take care of it for me. Sweet.
Six months later I'm getting letters about toll violations. I dispute them with proof, dismissed. I did this five times for various toll violations until finally I bugged the dealership enough for them to get around to fixing it. But their first response was: "Don't worry about it, if they come in the mail, just ignore them." Uh..
This year a car I used to drive was involved in a serious accident. I sold the car 7 years ago, the owner was just driving it illegally without registration. A few minutes on the phone with the police officer and it was cleared up.
When I went to the DMV a few months later to renew a car registration, they thought that I still owned the boat. They said it happens all the time. I had the bill of sale to sort things out.
In California, the plates stay with the car (unless they are vanity or you are attached to your plate number)
Why would car ownership be anything but a very weak piece of evidence in such a case?
This was wayyyy before red light/speeding cameras existed - I was 17 under mom's insurance. Car insurance calls mom saying my car was involved in a hit-and-run, a bystander took down the license plate of the hit and run car, my license plate. This hit and run also happened in the town I lived in. Totally plausible and even provable it was me, or at least someone driving my car.
My car, however, at that time was about 250 miles away... Being towed, as the shitbox I drove broke down, again. I had the tow truck receipt to prove it.
I honestly don't know what ended up happening, as at 17 I wasn't handling this kinda stuff. I guess the tow receipts proved it wasn't me. Or maybe it was a different make/model/color than what was registered with the DMV. Anyways, I never heard about it again. Of course, nobody went after me for a crime, it was the insurance who cared in this case, not the police. I don't know how long this took to resolved or how much of a pain of the ass it was to deal with.
I just find it very frightening that, when you looked at it from afar, it seemed so obvious that it was me even though I was totally innocent.