What Constitutes “Abandoning” a Vehicle?
It is unlawful to abandon a motor vehicle in New Jersey. The law applies to abandonment on private property, as well as on New Jersey public roads and highways. The statute that relates to abandonment is N.J.S. 39:4-56.5.
It may be difficult sometimes to determine when a car has, in the legal sense, been abandoned. New Jersey law creates a presumption, however, to deal with that ambiguity. Under this presumption, a car that has remained on or along any street, road, highway or other public property, or on private property without consent, for more than forty-eight hours is presumed to have been an abandoned motor vehicle. And a car left in those areas for any period without current license plates is presumed to be an abandoned car.
That forty-eight hour presumption just mentioned lends itself to abuse. Relying upon that presumption of abandonment, police can ticket and tow cars obviously not abandoned, for illicit purposes. One of those purposes can be to fill ticket quotas. Another purpose could be to drum up business for towing companies and storage facilities, for which police officers and their agencies receive a kickback. Proving corrupt practices such as these is difficult.
What we have been discussing here is cars. However, N.J.S. 39:4-56.5 does not limit itself to cars. The statute applies to “motor vehicles.” Therefore all that we have mentioned here applies equally to trucks, buses, SUVs, motor scooters, and motorcycles. Aircraft, however, are not considered “motor vehicles” for purposes of this discussion.
On a first offense, the New Jersey penalty for violating this statute is a fine. The minimum amount of the fine is $100.00. It can be up to $500.00. On a second or subsequent violation, the range of fines is from $500.00 to $1,000.00.
Presumptions can often be overcome. In lawyer talk, presumptions can be “rebutted.” Persons charged with abandoning a car or other vehicle are strongly advised to seek assistance from a qualified New Jersey lawyer. New Jersey traffic ticket lawyers are familiar with presumptions, and ways to rebut them. Allan Marain is a New Jersey abandoned vehicle lawyer who has successfully represented persons subject to presumptions such as these.
Remedies Available to Property Owners Plagued by Abandoned Cars
The discussion above treats what constitues an abandoned vehicle. If you own the property where the abandoned vehicle is located, remedies are available. These remedies are not limited to just the owner. They are available to persons who manage the property, as well as persons who control it. Very simply, the persons mentioned above can simply remove the vehicle. They need not do this personally. They can arrange for another person to do the removing. In order for the owner of the vehicle to recover it, they must then pay the reasonable costs for the removal. They must also pay any storage fees that may have accrued. Unless payment, or proper claim, is made within 90 days of the removal, the vehicle can be sold at public auction.
Warning: The previous paragraph said, “very simply”. It is sometimes not quite that simple. The removal process may need to comply with New Jersey Statute 56:13-13. That Statute imposes numerous requirements before owners may implement this removal process. However, these requirements are not imposed in the following situations:
- The motor vehicle is parked on a lot or parcel on which is situated a single-family unit; or
- The motor vehicle is parked on an owner-occupied multi-unit structure of not more than six units; or
- The motor vehicle is in front of any driveway or garage entrance and blocking access to that driveway or garage entrance;
- Special rules (which we will not spell out here) found in New Jersey Statute 56:13-13 exist for residential communities where parking spaces are specifically assigned to community residents.
We mentioned above that the facilities to which abandoned vehicles are removed can sell those vehicles at public auction. The requirements to conduct that public auction, however, are many. Auctions must first be advertised in a certain way and at a certain time. Owners must first be afforded an opportunity to reclaim their vehicles upon payment of accrued reasonable fees. These requirements are all spelled out in detail in New Jersey Statutes 2A:44-20 through 2A:44-31. It is actually rather involved.
Get Legal Help!
As documented above, persons charged with abandoning a vehicle, and persons on whose property an abandoned vehicle is located, have a complicated set of technical requirements to follow. Assistance of a skilled lawyer can help avoid traps. Abandoned Car Lawyers in New Jersey can save persons in these situations from the ordeal that can result from failure to comply with these technical requirements. Call them!