California Abandoned Car Laws
An abandoned car is one the owner has forsaken on public or private property for at least 72 hours. Abandoned cars are typically damaged, inoperative, or dismantled. The state of California has taken a stance against abandoned cars. It believes abandoned vehicles decrease property value, attract vandals, and create safety hazards for the public. Abandoned cars can also be involved in car accidents and cause an issue for those trying to hold an owner responsible. To help prevent an accumulation of abandoned vehicles, California has instated specific related laws.
California Vehicle Code 22523
California Vehicle Code 22523 directly states that it is illegal to abandon any vehicle on a public highway. It is only lawful to abandon a vehicle on public or private property with the consent of the landowner. If state police catch someone abandoning a vehicle against the parameters of this law, the offender will receive a fine of at least $100, or more depending on the circumstances. The person must then pay the costs to remove the abandoned vehicle. These costs will equal no more than the price of towing and up to seven days of storage.
An offender cannot fight to suspend the fine; the only relief a judge may grant is to allow multiple payment installments if the offender cannot afford one lump sum. If someone else stole the vehicle before illegally abandoning it, the vehicle’s owner will not need to show proof of paying for removal. Instead, the person will simply need to show proof of the robbery, such as a police report.
If after removal and disposition of the vehicle the owner does not return to collect it, the owner will be guilty of an infraction. In addition to previous fines, the registered vehicle owner will be legally responsible to pay for remaining costs to dispose of the vehicle according to state laws. Again, showing a police report that proves the vehicle stolen, or a report of vehicle sale/transfer, will protect a person from registered owner liability in these situations.
Abandoned Vehicles Are Public Nuisances
In the eyes of several California laws, illegally abandoned vehicles are public nuisances. The state believes they invite plundering, promote deterioration, creates health hazards, attracts rodents and insects, and is injurious to general welfare. Therefore, the state has deemed abandoned vehicles on private or public properties public nuisances. A peace officer has the authority to immediately remove vehicles that have sat immobile for 72 hours or more on a highway or public right-of-way, or those missing tires or other necessary parts to operate on the roadway.
After removing the abandoned vehicle, the council will be able to determine the amount to charge the vehicle owner in abatement costs, to remove the car or its parts from the public roadway. These fees will include towing charges, vehicle mileage, the salary of the vehicle abatement officer, photography costs, and administrative and court costs. If the owner of the vehicle does not pay these fines within 30 days, the costs will go to the landowner. The city does not take liability for any damage to an abandoned vehicle.
If a land or vehicle owner receives a notice about an abandoned vehicle, the owner can request a public hearing before a vehicle abatement officer to explain the situation. The landowner must make a written request within 10 days of receiving the notice. During the hearing, the owner of the land or vehicle will have the opportunity to deny responsibility for the abandoned vehicle. If the owner chooses not to call a hearing, the officer will have grounds to remove the vehicle according to the requirements of state law.
Abandoned Vehicle Abatement Program
To encourage authorities to remove and decrease the number of abandoned vehicles, the California Highway Patrol created the Abandoned Vehicle Abatement Program. This program gives money to county administrators for removing abandoned, nuisance vehicles from public lands within their counties. The program receives its funding through a $1 registration fee for a all vehicles within the county. Each county that participates must submit a report each year detailing its processes and progress.