January 29, 2023

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Check the VIN Before You Buy a Classic Car to Avoid Getting it Seized

A gentleman in Kansas who acquired a 1959 Corvette has located himself litigating with the point out in an endeavor to retain them from destroying the motor vehicle. The Kafkaesque predicament triggers shivers for other car homeowners but also points to techniques all consumers of vintage vehicles have to have to follow.

This is a method I am very common with. I experienced a consumer who bought a traditional automobile from Michigan that was seized by the condition police in his house point out when they found a VIN discrepancy between the key VIN tag and a VIN stamped on the firewall.

Richard Martinez acquired the 1959 Corvette from a dealer in Indiana and sought to have it registered in Kansas. For the duration of that system, the Kansas Highway Patrol located a discrepancy: the VIN tag on the door post did not match a VIN stamped on the body. A variety of information reports mention the VIN getting observed in a “secret” place but those spots are not as mystery as they were being just before the net arrived along. Corvettes from 1959 had the VIN stamped into the body at minimum as soon as, nevertheless it can be hard to track down the stamping 60 a long time later.

The KHP advised Martinez that the car or truck was likely to be seized less than Kansas legislation, owing to the VIN difficulty. Kansas regulation 8-116(b) prohibits “knowingly” possessing or getting custody or possession of a motor auto if the “original car identification selection has been destroyed, taken out, altered or defaced.” The statute orders legislation enforcement officers to “seize and take possession” of such motor vehicles and the automobiles are addressed as “contraband.” Generally talking, the law says, “articles of contraband shall be wrecked.”

Martinez employed an attorney and it is been reported that he has previously spent $30,000 on lawful costs. He also notes that the vehicle has been harmed when in storage–if he wins this situation and receives the car returned to him, he will commit pretty much one more $30,000 finding it repaired–in the make any difference of a vehicle that price him $50,000 to commence with.

What is making headlines in this situation is that the condition of Kansas has created no allegation of wrongdoing on the part of Martinez. He seems to be “innocent” in this matter–it is the motor vehicle that is in the mistaken.

Martinez has observed that the statutes of Kansas make it possible for for the point out to go a further route on this make a difference. Assuming that the Corvette is made up of no stolen components and is merely a mix-and-match exclusive, the Freeway Patrol could assign the vehicle a new VIN. The statute is imprecise on how particularly this comes about. “If the highway patrol is happy that the vehicle is made up of no stolen elements [] the freeway patrol shall ascertain the make, design and year of the vehicle, and shall assign” the vehicle a VIN that the point out will take as authorized.

But how do you “satisfy” the Highway Patrol that the vehicle is made up of no stolen pieces? Is that the work of the condition law enforcement to show, or for the operator of the auto to disprove? And what does “satisfied” in fact suggest? Lawfully, it is a rather strange typical to be penned into a law. As it stands, the Freeway Patrol is indicating they are NOT content – but they admit they have no evidence that just about anything on the car or truck is basically stolen.

Martinez is in a extremely challenging position. The regulation exists for a very good explanation. If autos could effortlessly be bought with lousy VINs, it would presumably make items a lot easier for automobile robbers and other lousy actors. But what about an harmless purchaser like Martinez? No just one has but come forward to assert the car or truck, or areas of it. A ton of people are lining up on the facet of Martinez listed here, like the Kansas Justice Institute, who pointed out that a equivalent situation created it to the Supreme Court docket of Illinois. There, an innocent consumer of a automobile with a negative VIN received to retain the automobile when the court docket dominated the statute violated the owing process legal rights of the car or truck buyer.

Of system, Illinois law will not be binding on the courts of Kansas.

I can convey to you that in the case I taken care of, the stolen car was returned by the state law enforcement to its first proprietor – the one particular who had described it stolen decades ago. We ended up pressured to sue the advertising vendor to get my consumer his funds back – which we managed to do, though litigation always takes lengthier than we’d like.

We’ll have to hold out to see what the courts in Kansas do with the Martinez Corvette. In the meantime, if you are likely to invest in a basic motor vehicle, you will want to get some cautionary actions. You can pay to have an specialist examine the auto for you and check with them to precisely check out ALL the VIN areas to make absolutely sure they match. Or, you can Google the design yr and title consequently: “1959 Corvette VIN locations” and view how badly the online retains people locations “secret.”

After all, Martinez could earn this situation. But no a person purchases a typical motor vehicle just so they can litigate its ownership for a several several years prior to they can lawfully generate it.


Steve Lehto is a writer and lawyer from Michigan. He specializes in Lemon Regulation and regularly writes about vehicles and the legislation. His most latest books involve Preston Tucker and His Battle to Establish the Motor vehicle of Tomorrow and Dodge Daytona and Plymouth Superbird: Style, Advancement, Output and Competitors. He also has a YouTube channel the place he talks about these points.

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