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“Abandoned” property under Georgia law

by merlin on October 18th, 2010
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A strange story was brought to my attention earlier today, and, in preparation for a client meeting on the topic, I have sought to learn more about it.  It seems that a motor vehicle was seized and towed by the County, after its occupant could not be found.  It had broken down on the highway, and he had gone to a nearby service station to call for assistance.  Now, the County apparently insists the vehicle was “abandoned”, and demands both payment for the towing and for the ongoing storage bill.  There is certainly more to the story.

 

§ 40-11-3. When Peace Officers May Remove Vehicles From Public Property; Notification Requirements

(a) Any peace officer who finds a motor vehicle which has been left unattended on a public street, road, or highway or other public property for a period of at least five days shall be authorized to cause such motor vehicle to be removed to a garage or other place of safety, if such peace officer reasonably believes that the person who left such motor vehicle unattended does not intend to return and remove such motor vehicle. 

(b) Any law enforcement officer who finds a motor vehicle which has been left unattended on the state highway system shall be authorized to cause such motor vehicle to be removed immediately to a garage or other place of safety when such motor vehicle poses a threat to public health or safety or to mitigate congestion. Any peace officer who finds a motor vehicle which has been left unattended on a public street, road, or highway or other public property, other than the state highway system, shall be authorized immediately to cause such motor vehicle to be removed immediately to a garage or other place of safety when such motor vehicle poses a threat to public health or safety or to mitigate congestion. 

(c) Any peace officer who, under this Code section, causes any motor vehicle to be removed to a garage or other place of safety shall be liable for gross negligence only. 

(d)(1) Any peace officer or the law enforcement agency which causes a motor vehicle to be removed to a garage or other place of safety or which is notified of the removal of a motor vehicle from private property shall within 72 hours from the time of removal or notice and if the owner is unknown attempt to determine vehicle ownership through official inquiries to the Department of Revenue vehicle registration and vehicle title files. These inquiries shall be made from authorized criminal justice information system network terminals. 

(2) If the name and address of the last known registered owner of the motor vehicle is obtained from the Georgia Crime Information Center, the peace officer who causes the motor vehicle to be removed shall, within three calendar days, make available to the person removing such motor vehicle the name and address of the last known registered owner of such motor vehicle, the owner of the motor vehicle as recorded on the title of such vehicle, and all security interest holders or lienholders. If such information is not available, the peace officer shall, within three calendar days, notify the person removing or storing such vehicle of such fact. 

(3) Law enforcement agencies shall make record entries in Georgia criminal justice information system files through authorized criminal justice information system network terminals after an unsuccessful attempt to obtain vehicle ownership information and shall remove the record entries when ownership is determined.

 

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