Abandoned Vehicles


Montana Code Annotated ~ Abandoned Vehicles


Montana State Seal


     61-12-401 Taking vehicle into custody (1) The following law enforcement agencies may take into custody any motor vehicle found abandoned for a period of 48 hours or more on a public highway or for a period of 5 days or more on a city street, public property, or private property:
     (a) the Montana highway patrol if the vehicle is upon the right-of-way of any public highway other than a county road;
     (b) the sheriff of the county if the vehicle is upon the right-of-way of any county road;
     (c) the city police if the vehicle is upon a city street.
     (2) The Montana highway patrol, sheriff of the county, or city police may use their personnel, equipment, and facilities for the removal and storage of the vehicle or may hire other personnel, equipment, and facilities for those purposes. The sheriff of the county or the chief of police of the city in which the vehicle is being stored may request reimbursement of the hired removal charge from the motor vehicle recycling and disposal program of the department of environmental quality in an amount and manner established by rules adopted by the department of environmental quality for this purpose.
     (3) (a) At the request of the owner or person in lawful possession or control of the private property, the sheriff of the county in which the vehicle is located or the city police of the city in which the vehicle is located may remove and hold it in the manner and upon the conditions provided in subsections (1) and (2).
     (b) A private landowner owning property considered to be part of ways of this state open to the public, as defined in 61-8-101, who can demonstrate meeting the 5-day waiting period in subsection (1) by calling one of the law enforcement agencies listed in subsection (1) at the start of the 5-day period may remove the abandoned vehicle within the conditions provided for in subsections (1) and (2).

     History: En. Sec. 2, Ch. 288, L. 1967; amd. Sec. 2, Ch. 169, L. 1969; R.C.M. 1947, 53-902; amd. Sec. 1, Ch. 445, L. 1979; amd. Sec. 6, Ch. 88, L. 1987; amd. Sec. 1, Ch. 513, L. 1999; amd. Sec. 1, Ch. 461, L. 2007.

     61-12-402. Notice to owner. (1) Within 72 hours after a vehicle is removed and held by or at the direction of the Montana highway patrol, the highway patrol shall notify the sheriff of the county or the chief of police of the city in which the vehicle is being stored of where and when the vehicle was taken into custody and of where the vehicle is being stored. In addition, the Montana highway patrol shall furnish the sheriff or the chief of police:
     (a) a complete description of the vehicle, including year, make, model, serial number, and license number if available;
     (b) any costs incurred to that date in the removal, storage, and custody of the vehicle; and
     (c) any available information concerning the vehicle's ownership.
     (2) The highway patrol shall notify the sheriff of the county or the chief of police of the city in which the vehicle was taken into custody of the location at which the vehicle is being stored if the vehicle was removed to a different county.
     (3) The sheriff or the city police in the jurisdiction where the vehicle is being stored shall make reasonable efforts to ascertain the name and address of the owner, lienholder, or person entitled to possession of the vehicle taken into custody under 61-12-401. If a name and address are ascertained, the sheriff or the city police shall notify the owner, lienholder, or person of the location of the vehicle.
     (4) If the vehicle is registered in the office of the department, notice is considered to have been given when a certified letter addressed to the registered owner of the vehicle and lienholder, if any, at the latest address shown by the records in the office of the department, return receipt requested and postage prepaid, is mailed at least 30 days before the vehicle is sold.
     (5) If the identity of the last-registered owner cannot be determined, if the registration does not contain an address for the owner, or if it is impossible to determine with reasonable certainty the identity and addresses of all lienholders, notice by one publication in one newspaper of general circulation in the county where the motor vehicle is being stored is sufficient to meet all requirements of notice pursuant to this part. The notice by publication may contain multiple listings of abandoned vehicles. The notice must be provided in the same manner as prescribed in 25-13-701(1)(b).
     (6) If the abandoned vehicle is in the possession of a motor vehicle wrecking facility licensed under 75-10-511, the wrecking facility may make the required search to ascertain the name and address of the owner, lienholder, or person entitled to possession of the vehicle and shall give the notices required in subsections (3) through (5). The wrecking facility shall deliver to the sheriff or the city police a certificate describing the efforts made to ascertain the name and address of the owner, lienholder, or person entitled to possession of the vehicle and shall deliver to the sheriff or the city police proof of the notice given.
     (7) (a) A vehicle found by law enforcement officials to be a junk vehicle, as defined by 75-10-501, and that has a value of $500 or less may be directly submitted for disposal in accordance with the provisions of Title 75, chapter 10, part 5, upon a release given by the sheriff or the city police. The county representative designated to implement the county motor vehicle recycling and disposal program pursuant to 75-10-521 for the county where the vehicle is being stored shall determine the value of the vehicle. In the release, the sheriff or the city police shall include a description of the vehicle, including year, make, model, serial number, and license number if available. If the vehicle is being stored by a motor vehicle wrecking facility, the sheriff or the city police shall transmit the release to the motor vehicle wrecking facility and the facility shall consider the release to meet the requirements for records under 61-3-225 and 75-10-512. If the vehicle is being stored by a qualified tow truck operator, as defined in 61-8-903, the sheriff or the city police shall transmit the release to the operator. Vehicles described in this section may be submitted for disposal without notice and without a required holding period.
     (b) A licensed vehicle that otherwise meets the definition of a junk vehicle, as defined in 75-10-501, and that has a value of $500 or less may be directly submitted for disposal as provided in subsection (7)(a).

     History: En. Sec. 3, Ch. 288, L. 1967; amd. Sec. 1, Ch. 53, L. 1974; R.C.M. 1947, 53-903; amd. Sec. 1, Ch. 191, L. 1979; amd. Sec. 1, Ch. 355, L. 1985; amd. Sec. 1, Ch. 503, L. 1985; amd. Sec. 7, Ch. 88, L. 1987; amd. Sec. 134, Ch. 27, Sp. L. November 1993; amd. Sec. 16, Ch. 283, L. 1995; amd. Sec. 38, Ch. 496, L. 1997; amd. Sec. 2, Ch. 513, L. 1999; amd. Sec. 1, Ch. 176, L. 2003; amd. Sec. 2, Ch. 53, L. 2007.

     61-12-403. Reclaiming vehicle. The owner, lienholder, or person entitled to possession of the vehicle may reclaim it at any time after it is taken into custody and before it is sold. The owner, lienholder, or person entitled to possession of the vehicle shall present to the sheriff of the county or the city police of the city where the vehicle is being stored satisfactory proof of ownership or right to possession and shall pay the costs and expenses incurred in the removal, storage, and custody of the vehicle. The person reclaiming the vehicle may not be required to pay storage charges for a period longer than 90 days.

     History: En. Sec. 4, Ch. 288, L. 1967; R.C.M. 1947, 53-904; amd. Sec. 2, Ch. 355, L. 1985; amd. Sec. 8, Ch. 88, L. 1987; amd. Sec. 3, Ch. 513, L. 1999.

     61-12-404. Sale or release of vehicle if not reclaimed. (1) If a vehicle is not reclaimed, as provided in 61-12-403, within 30 days after notification by certified mail or prescribed publication, the sheriff of the county or the city police of the city in which the vehicle is being stored may sell it at public auction in the manner provided in 25-13-701 through 25-13-709.
     (2) If the sheriff or city police elect not to sell a vehicle under subsection (1) and the vehicle is being stored by a qualified tow truck operator, as defined in 61-8-903, the sheriff or city police shall release the vehicle to the qualified tow truck operator.
     (3) After a vehicle has been sold pursuant to subsection (1) or released pursuant to subsection (2), the former owner or person entitled to possession has no further right, title, claim, or interest in or to the vehicle.

     History: En. Sec. 5, Ch. 288, L. 1967; R.C.M. 1947, 53-905; amd. Sec. 3, Ch. 355, L. 1985; amd. Sec. 4, Ch. 513, L. 1999; amd. Sec. 2, Ch. 176, L. 2003.

     61-12-405. Certificate of sale or release. (1) (a) If a vehicle is sold as provided in 61-12-404(1), the sheriff or the city police at the time of the payment of the purchase price shall execute a certificate of sale in duplicate and shall deliver the original certificate to the purchaser and retain the copy.
     (b) The certificate of sale must contain the name and address of the purchaser, the date of sale, the consideration paid, a description of the vehicle, and a stipulation that no warranty is made as to the condition or title of the vehicle.
     (2) (a) If a vehicle is released as provided in 61-12-404(2), the sheriff or city police shall execute a certificate of release to the qualified tow truck operator in duplicate and shall deliver the original certificate to the operator and retain the copy.
     (b) The certificate of release must contain the name and address of the operator, the date of release, a description of the vehicle, including year, make, model, serial number, and license number if available, and a stipulation that no warranty is made as to the condition or title of the vehicle.

     History: En. Sec. 6, Ch. 288, L. 1967; R.C.M. 1947, 53-906; amd. Sec. 4, Ch. 355, L. 1985; amd. Sec. 3, Ch. 176, L. 2003.

     61-12-406. Issuing certificate of title. The department shall issue a certificate of title upon presentation by the purchaser of the certificate of sale or upon presentation by the operator of a certificate of release and payment of the fees required by law.

     History: En. Sec. 7, Ch. 288, L. 1967; R.C.M. 1947, 53-907; amd. Sec. 1, Ch. 503, L. 1985; amd. Sec. 4, Ch. 176, L. 2003; amd. Sec. 78, Ch. 477, L. 2003.

     61-12-407. Transmitting return of sale and balance of proceeds. (1) When any vehicle is sold as provided in 61-12-404, the sheriff or the city police shall transmit to the department and to the county treasurer or to the city treasurer, respectively, a return of sale setting forth a description of the vehicle, the purchase price, the name and address of the purchaser, the costs incurred in the sale, and the costs and expenses incurred in the removal, storage, and custody of the vehicle.
     (2) With the return of sale, the sheriff shall transmit to the county treasurer or the city police shall transmit to the city treasurer the balance of the proceeds of the sale after deducting the costs incurred in the sale and the costs and expenses incurred in the removal, storage, and custody of the vehicle.
     (3) Upon receipt of the return of sale and the balance from:
     (a) the county sheriff, the county treasurer shall file the return in the treasurer's office and deposit the balance in the county road fund on all vehicles seized by the sheriff or highway patrol; or
     (b) the city police, the city treasurer shall file the return in the treasurer's office and deposit the balance in the city street fund on all vehicles seized by the city police.

     History: En. Sec. 8, Ch. 288, L. 1967; R.C.M. 1947, 53-908; amd. Sec. 5, Ch. 355, L. 1985; amd. Sec. 1, Ch. 503, L. 1985; amd. Sec. 9, Ch. 88, L. 1987; amd. Sec. 1973, Ch. 56, L. 2009.

     61-12-408. Penalty. Any person or persons violating the provisions of this part shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and upon conviction shall be punished by a fine of not less than $25 or more than $300 or by imprisonment in the county jail for not less than 5 days or more than 90 days or by both fine and imprisonment.

     History: En. Sec. 9, Ch. 288, L. 1967; R.C.M. 1947, 53-909(part).

     75-10-512. Records required of facilities. (1) Each motor vehicle wrecking facility shall maintain books or files in which are kept a record and description of every junk vehicle obtained by it, together with the name and address of the person from whom the vehicle was purchased.
     (2) This record must also contain:
     (a) the certificate of title, sheriff's certificate of sale, notarized bill of sale from the former owner or person selling the vehicle, release of ownership or interest in the motor vehicle, or sheriff's release;
     (b) the name of the state where the vehicle was last registered;
     (c) the make of the vehicle;
     (d) the vehicle identification number, as defined in 61-3-210, or the motor number, identification number, or serial number;
     (e) the date purchased;
     (f) the disposition of the vehicle.
     (3) An authorized representative of the department of justice who presents credentials may also inspect, have access to, and copy records required under this section.

     History: En. Sec. 4, Ch. 410, L. 1973; R.C.M. 1947, 69-6804(1), (2); amd. Sec. 1, Ch. 427, L. 1985; amd. Sec. 5, Ch. 725, L. 1991; amd. Sec. 76, Ch. 10, L. 1993; amd. Sec. 79, Ch. 477, L. 2003.

     75-10-532. Disposition of money collected. All money received from the sale of junk vehicles or from recycling of the material and all motor vehicle wrecking facility license fees must be remitted to the state, as provided in 15-1-504. The money must be used for the control, collection, recycling, and disposal of junk vehicles and component parts and for the removal of abandoned vehicles.

     History: Ap. p. Sec. 6, Ch. 410, L. 1973; amd. Sec. 1, Ch. 520, L. 1975; amd. Sec. 4, Ch. 252, L. 1977; Sec. 69-6806, R.C.M. 1947; Ap. p. Sec. 7, Ch. 410, L. 1973; amd. Sec. 1, Ch. 52, L. 1975; amd. Sec. 2, Ch. 520, L. 1975; amd. Sec. 18, Ch. 140, L. 1977; amd. Sec. 5, Ch. 252, L. 1977; Sec. 69-6807, R.C.M. 1947; R.C.M. 1947, 69-6806(3), 69-6807(1); amd. Sec. 5, Ch. 241, L. 1983; amd. Sec. 4, Ch. 633, L. 1985; amd. Sec. 2, Ch. 718, L. 1985; amd. Sec. 198, Ch. 418, L. 1995; amd. Sec. 6, Ch. 513, L. 1999; amd. Sec. 38, Ch. 257, L. 2001; amd. Sec. 3, Ch. 317, L. 2001; amd. Sec. 2, Ch. 281, L. 2003; amd. Sec. 235, Ch. 542, L. 2005.