Responsibility of registered owner.
(1) The abandonment of any vehicle creates a prima facie presumption that the last registered owner of record is responsible for the abandonment and is liable for costs incurred in removing, storing, and disposing of the abandoned vehicle, less amounts realized at auction.
(2) If an unauthorized vehicle is found abandoned under subsection (1) of this section and removed at the direction of law enforcement, the last registered owner of record is guilty of the traffic infraction of "littering -- abandoned vehicle," unless the vehicle is redeemed as provided in RCW 46.55.120. In addition to any other monetary penalty payable under chapter 46.63 RCW, the court shall not consider all monetary penalties as having been paid until the court is satisfied that the person found to have committed the infraction has made restitution in the amount of the deficiency remaining after disposal of the vehicle under RCW 46.55.140.
(3) A vehicle theft report filed with a law enforcement agency relieves the last registered owner of liability under subsection (2) of this section for failure to redeem the vehicle. However, the last registered owner remains liable for the costs incurred in removing, storing, and disposing of the abandoned vehicle under subsection (1) of this section. Nothing in this section limits in any way the registered owner's rights in a civil action or as restitution in a criminal action against a person responsible for the theft of the vehicle.
(4) Properly filing a report of sale or transfer regarding the vehicle involved in accordance with RCW 46.12.650 (1) through (3) relieves the last registered owner of liability under subsections (1) and (2) of this section. If the date of sale as indicated on the report of sale is on or before the date of impoundment, the buyer identified on the latest properly filed report of sale with the department is assumed liable for the costs incurred in removing, storing, and disposing of the abandoned vehicle, less amounts realized at auction. If the date of sale is after the date of impoundment, the previous registered owner is assumed to be liable for such costs. A licensed vehicle dealer is not liable under subsections (1) and (2) of this section if the dealer, as transferee or assignee of the last registered owner of the vehicle involved, has complied with the requirements of RCW 46.70.122 upon selling or otherwise disposing of the vehicle, or if the dealer has timely filed a transitional ownership record or report of sale under RCW 46.12.660. In that case the person to whom the licensed vehicle dealer has sold or transferred the vehicle is assumed liable for the costs incurred in removing, storing, and disposing of the abandoned vehicle, less amounts realized at auction.
(5) For the purposes of reporting notices of traffic infraction to the department under RCW 46.20.270 and 46.52.101, and for purposes of reporting notices of failure to appear, respond, or comply regarding a notice of traffic infraction to the department under RCW 46.63.070(6), a traffic infraction under subsection (2) of this section is not considered to be a standing, stopping, or parking violation.
(6) A notice of infraction for a violation of this section may be filed with a court of limited jurisdiction organized under Title 3, 35, or 35A RCW, or with a violations bureau subject to the court's jurisdiction.
[2010 c 161 § 1119; 2002 c 279 § 10; 1999 c 86 § 5; 1998 c 203 § 2; 1995 c 219 § 4; 1993 c 314 § 1.]
| Effective date -- Intent -- Legislation to reconcile chapter 161, Laws of 2010 and other amendments made during the 2010 legislative session -- 2010 c 161: See notes following RCW 46.04.013.|
Finding -- 1998 c 203: "The legislature finds that the license to drive a motor vehicle on the public highways is suspended or revoked in order to protect public safety following a driver's failure to comply with the laws of this state. Over six hundred persons are killed in traffic accidents in Washington annually, and more than eighty-four thousand persons are injured. It is estimated that of the three million four hundred thousand drivers' licenses issued to citizens of Washington, more than two hundred sixty thousand are suspended or revoked at any given time. Suspended drivers are more likely to be involved in causing traffic accidents, including fatal accidents, than properly licensed drivers, and pose a serious threat to the lives and property of Washington residents. Statistics show that suspended drivers are three times more likely to kill or seriously injure others in the commission of traffic felony offenses than are validly licensed drivers. In addition to not having a driver's license, most such drivers also lack required liability insurance, increasing the financial burden upon other citizens through uninsured losses and higher insurance costs for validly licensed drivers. Because of the threat posed by suspended drivers, all registered owners of motor vehicles in Washington have a duty to not allow their vehicles to be driven by a suspended driver.
Despite the existence of criminal penalties for driving with a suspended or revoked license, an estimated seventy-five percent of these drivers continue to drive anyway. Existing sanctions are not sufficient to deter or prevent persons with a suspended or revoked license from driving. It is common for suspended drivers to resume driving immediately after being stopped, cited, and released by a police officer and to continue to drive while a criminal prosecution for suspended driving is pending. More than half of all suspended drivers charged with the crime of driving while suspended or revoked fail to appear for court hearings. Vehicle impoundment will provide an immediate consequence which will increase deterrence and reduce unlawful driving by preventing a suspended driver access to that vehicle. Vehicle impoundment will also provide an appropriate measure of accountability for registered owners who permit suspended drivers to drive their vehicles. Impoundment of vehicles driven by suspended drivers has been shown to reduce future driving while suspended or revoked offenses for up to two years afterwards, and the recidivism rate for drivers whose cars were not impounded was one hundred percent higher than for drivers whose cars were impounded. In order to adequately protect public safety and to enforce the state's driver licensing laws, it is necessary to authorize the impoundment of any vehicle when it is found to be operated by a driver with a suspended or revoked license in violation of RCW 46.20.342 and 46.20.420. The impoundment of a vehicle operated in violation of RCW 46.20.342 or 46.20.420 is intended to be a civil in rem action against the vehicle in order to remove it from the public highways and reduce the risk posed to traffic safety by a vehicle accessible to a driver who is reasonably believed to have violated these laws." [1998 c 203 § 1.]
Suspension of driver's license for failure to respond to notice of traffic infraction: RCW 46.20.289.