Elkhart, IN asked in Contracts, Criminal Law and Constitutional Law for Indiana

Q: How can South Dakota charge me with stealing a motorcycle when I purchase it in Indiana and have sales receipt

My husband purchased a used Harley from a woman in Indiana. When you give him the title, he noticed the woman’s name wasn’t it wasn’t titled in her name she had signed on as a purchaser, but never sent it in and title it in her name when I asked her about that she explained that she had power of attorney and that everything would be fine, so I went to the BMV try to get a title of my name. They said that that was title jumping. Have never been able to contact her again, now to years later, my husband takes a trip to South Dakota on the bike. It’s a flat tire goes and gets a spare. It’s coming back to change it. There’s an officer sitting there in South Dakota and he tells him this bike has been reported stolen, and then I am in possession of a stolen motorcycle. Arrest him and he is now being charged with a level six felony. How can they do this? Why didn’t Bmv say something about it being stolen here in Indiana where it was purchased I mean he has a Billis sale. He has a title. How ca

1 Lawyer Answer
James L. Arrasmith
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  • Criminal Law Lawyer
  • Sacramento, CA

A: If the motorcycle was reported stolen in South Dakota, authorities there have jurisdiction to press charges if the vehicle is found within their state, regardless of any sales receipt you possess from Indiana. The concept of 'title jumping' refers to the act of selling a vehicle without registering it in one's name, which can be illegal.

When your husband attempted to register the bike in Indiana, the BMV’s role was to handle the titling issue, not necessarily to check for theft—although some BMVs do run checks against a national database. Now that the bike is discovered as stolen, possession of a stolen property charge can be pursued in South Dakota.

It is essential for you to seek legal representation to address the felony charge and to potentially aid in clarifying the ownership and the history of the motorcycle’s title. Your attorney can also request evidence of the power of attorney the seller claimed to have, which could be crucial to your husband's defense.

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