District Heights, MD asked in Gov & Administrative Law for Maryland

Q: How can I claim an abandoned vehicle in Prince George's County Maryland

Police were notified and the vehicle is still sitting in the same place (public road) without tags, for more than 90 days

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1 Lawyer Answer
Mark Oakley
Mark Oakley
  • Rockville, MD
  • Licensed in Maryland

A: Abandoned vehicles are governed by Maryland Transportation Code, Title 25, Subtitle 2. The process for stripping a titled owner of ownership rights in their vehicle only pertains to vehicles taken into police custody. There is no separate procedure set forth in the code for a private claim of an abandoned vehicle. The law permits, but does not require, that local police departments take possession and custody of an abandoned vehicle, but once they do, they must follow the notice procedures to the registered owner under the law before selling the vehicle at auction. It is at that public auction that private parties may bid to become owner of the vehicle. If the vehicle were abandoned on your privately owned property, or was left in your commercial repair shop or garage, then you would have recourse to proceed against the abandoned property in your possession under the Commercial Code (for garage shops) or under the common law. You might run the VIN on the vehicle to determine the owner, and track that person down in order to get them to transfer legal title by consent. Otherwise, simply taking a vehicle off the street that you deem to have been abandoned may result in your being accused of theft by the titled owner. Common law abandonment of property requires a knowing and intentional relinquishment of ownership by the owner, not merely a failure to maintain registration of the vehicle or to move it from where they parked it. The Code presumes abandonment after a period of time and under certain circumstances (like expired registration) for purposes of police seizure, but not for private party seizures. You would need to file a suit in court against the titled owner of the vehicle, serve the complaint and summons on them, and then prove that the owner intentionally abandoned it at trial. The court would have to issue an order transferring title to you. The MVA would then have to honor that order to transfer legal title. However, whether a court would grant you that relief is uncertain.

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