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For other Californians selling or donating cars, a crucial step is to complete a "Notice of Transfer and Release of Liability" form. details at:


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.

Here is some of the documentation from the SF court:


(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.

This is a giant scam to screw the public out of more money. Call your congressperson, make a petition, make a big deal publicly out of it, go to the press, dig up as much dirt as you can; if the people don't make the authorities do their job right, they'll continue to use us as exploitation resources.

What part of this designed to increase income, in your opinion? It seems to me that revenue remains constant whether they fine the previous owner or the new one.

Taking the path of least resistance of course, it is easier to extort the person on their file than getting out of their way to find the real culprit.

> What part of this designed to increase income, in your opinion?

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 is no process for "the bureaucracy screwed up

There certainly is, whether or not SF County actively provides it to you.

In any case, the state does provide it.


Turn it on them and declare it was stolen. Either they accept the transfer or you are legally the owner and declare it stolen. Go to the police and report the car stolen. That would create such a cluster$uck for them maybe they'd be more inclined to work with you.

> Turn it on them and declare it was stolen.

So, you'll be guilty of perjury with clear documentary evidence, but get out of the traffic infraction. Likely pyrrhic victory, there.

Definitely do that. Just don't be surprised when the courts don't honor it. The paperwork was correct for me (and I can prove it), but that wasn't enough to "clear me from future liability".

I traded my car in, and one of the forms they had me sign was this. 6 months later I got a call from the DMV saying my insurance lapsed. I told them as much and they said that it's a common tactic by dealerships - they have you sign it then never send it in, because they don't want to be liable for the car even though they own it. Totally scummy.

You should submit the form online. It takes less than 5 minutes.

>The seller is responsible for reporting the change of ownership to DMV within 5 days from the date of sale

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..

Don't ignore them! That waves your right to contest the tickets!

So the fact that you no longer own the car is not enough to release you from liability from it? Typical "may cause cancer in the state of California" style regulations. Glad I don't live there anymore

Where do you live that you don't have to notify the DMV of a title transfer in order to be released from liability? When I sold my Dad's car in South Carolina, I had to collect the license plates (called "tags" there) and physically return them to the DMV with the required paperwork.

Pretty much anywhere with a sensible idea of what liability means. When the car is gone, you're not liable for it.

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.

so far I can't find a single state where you don't have to notify the DMV of a title transfer. I don't agree that this is some crazy "only in California" type of deal.

I don't know about cars, but I had this happen with a boat that I sold in Florida. The buyer is supposed to register the boat. The registration sticker did not expire for another year. So, they didn't bother to pay the fees.

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.

I don't know if it's still the case, but it used to be in Virginia that it was the buyer's responsibility to notify the DMV; the seller signed and handed over the title; if the buyer never registered the car it would be completely possible for the DMV to not have record of the transfer in that case.

While not required, the seller can also mail back their registration with a notice of sale (there is a small form on the back of the registration card, if I remember correctly).

Looks like Virginia is currently one of those states where you have to turn in the license plates -- so how would the camera ticket get to you? https://www.dmv.virginia.gov/vehicles/#selling.asp

In California, the plates stay with the car (unless they are vanity or you are attached to your plate number)

I never said it was "crazy", you inferred that yourself.

In Texas in the late 90's my father sold a car which was involved in a hit and run the very next day. Luckily a simple bill of sale was enough to keep him out of trouble.

> Being liable for a traffic ticket is one thing, but imagine being thought liable for a hit and run collision.

Why would car ownership be anything but a very weak piece of evidence in such a case?

I would hope.

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.

In a case of mistaken car identity (as opposed to correct car, but incorrect driver), there are even better sources of evidence: hitting someone usually leaves traces on the car (bent buffer or hood).

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