A person in Kansas who purchased a 1959 Corvette has discovered himself litigating with the state in an try and hold them from destroying the automotive. The Kafkaesque scenario causes shivers for different automotive house owners but additionally factors to steps all consumers of traditional automobiles have to observe.

This can be a course of I’m fairly conversant in. I had a shopper who purchased a traditional automotive from Michigan that was seized by the state police in his house state after they discovered a VIN discrepancy between the first VIN tag and a VIN stamped on the firewall.

Richard Martinez purchased the 1959 Corvette from a seller in Indiana and sought to have it registered in Kansas. Throughout that course of, the Kansas Freeway Patrol discovered a discrepancy: the VIN tag on the door publish didn’t match a VIN stamped on the body. Numerous information stories point out the VIN being present in a “secret” location however these areas aren’t as secret as they had been earlier than the web got here alongside. Corvettes from 1959 had the VIN stamped into the body at the least as soon as, although it may be laborious to find the stamping 60 years later.

The KHP instructed Martinez that the automotive was going to be seized below Kansas regulation, as a result of VIN problem. Kansas regulation 8-116(b) prohibits “knowingly” proudly owning or having custody or possession of a motorcar if the “unique car identification quantity has been destroyed, eliminated, altered or defaced.” The statute orders regulation enforcement officers to “seize and take possession” of such automobiles and the automobiles are handled as “contraband.” Typically talking, the regulation says, “Articles of contraband shall be destroyed.”

Martinez employed an lawyer and it’s been reported that he has already spent $30,000 on authorized charges. He additionally notes that the automotive has been broken whereas in storage–if he wins this case and will get the automotive returned to him, he’ll spend nearly one other $30,000 getting it repaired–within the matter of a automotive that value him $50,000 to start with.

What’s making headlines on this case is that the state of Kansas has made no allegation of wrongdoing on the a part of Martinez. He seems to be “harmless” on this matter–it’s the automotive that’s within the mistaken.

Martinez has famous that the statutes of Kansas permit for the state to go one other route on this matter. Assuming that the Corvette accommodates no stolen elements and is merely a mix-and-match particular, the Freeway Patrol may assign the automotive a brand new VIN. The statute is obscure on how precisely this occurs. “If the freeway patrol is happy that the car accommodates no stolen elements . . . the freeway patrol shall decide the make, mannequin and 12 months of the car, and shall assign” the car a VIN that the state will settle for as authorized.

However how do you “fulfill” the Freeway Patrol that the automotive accommodates no stolen elements? Is that the job of the state police to show, or for the proprietor of the automotive to disprove? And what does “happy” really imply? Legally, it’s a fairly bizarre commonplace to be written right into a regulation. Because it stands, the Freeway Patrol is saying they’re NOT happy – however they admit they don’t have any proof that something on the automotive is definitely stolen.

Martinez is in a really robust place. The regulation exists for a very good purpose. If automobiles may simply be offered with unhealthy VINs, it could presumably make issues simpler for automotive thieves and different unhealthy actors. However what about an harmless purchaser like Martinez? Nobody has but come ahead to say the automotive, or elements of it. Lots of people are lining up on the facet of Martinez right here, together with the Kansas Justice Institute, who identified {that a} related case made it to the Supreme Courtroom of Illinois. There, an harmless purchaser of a automotive with a nasty VIN received to maintain the automotive when the court docket dominated the statute violated the due course of rights of the automotive purchaser.

In fact, Illinois regulation is not going to be binding on the courts of Kansas.

I can inform you that within the case I dealt with, the stolen automotive was returned by the state police to its unique proprietor—the one who had reported it stolen a long time in the past. We had been pressured to sue the promoting seller to get my shopper his a refund, which we managed to do, though litigation all the time takes longer than we would like.

We’ll have to attend to see what the courts in Kansas do with the Martinez Corvette. Within the meantime, if you will purchase a traditional automotive, you’ll want to take some cautionary steps. You’ll be able to pay to have an professional examine the car for you and ask them to particularly examine all the VIN areas to verify they match. Or, you may Google the mannequin 12 months and identify thus: “1959 Corvette VIN areas” and watch how badly the web retains these areas “secret.”

In spite of everything, Martinez may win this case. However nobody buys a traditional automotive simply to allow them to litigate its possession for just a few years earlier than they will legally drive it.

Steve Lehto is a author and lawyer from Michigan. He makes a speciality of Lemon Legislation and continuously writes about automobiles and the regulation. His most up-to-date books embrace Preston Tucker and His Battle to Construct the Automotive of Tomorrow and Dodge Daytona and Plymouth Superbird: Design, Improvement, Manufacturing and Competitors. He additionally has a YouTube channel the place he talks about this stuff.

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