One year later, Michigan's streets are cleaner
OCTOBER 12, 2006
Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land today announced that more than 92,000 abandoned vehicles have been cleared from roads and communities thanks to the new Abandoned Vehicle Law, which marks its one-year anniversary this month.
"Abandoned vehicles are a blight on our communities and pose a serious health and safety threat," said Land, who championed revising the law. "It's clear our efforts are paying off. In the last year, we've removed about 184,000 tons worth of vehicles - that's a lot of metal, oil, glass and rubber that will no longer be an eyesore and a hazard.
"The credit for this success is shared among the Legislature, law enforcement, towing companies and Department of State staff."
Public acts 493 and 495 of 2004 streamline procedures for identifying and processing abandoned vehicles, freeing law enforcement to concentrate on other traffic and public safety concerns. Under the law, the tagging of abandoned vehicles by law enforcement is optional rather than mandatory. Police agencies may designate an agent, such as a towing company, to handle any tagging, removal, processing and auctioning of abandoned vehicles. The responsibility for checking to see if a vehicle is stolen remains with law enforcement.
Public Act 494 of 2004 expands the definition of litter to include abandoned vehicles. First-time offenders may face fines from $500 to $2,500, plus additional fines related to the costs of removal, any damages to the environment and the vehicle's storage. Land explained that it isn't uncommon to find junk vehicles filled with old tires, trash, batteries and other materials hazardous to health and the environment. Penalties increase to include possible jail time and stiffer fines for anyone abandoning a vehicle containing certain dangerous materials, such as infectious or pathological waste.
"Until this new law, you could be fined up to $500 for throwing a cigarette butt out your car window on the highway, but nothing for leaving a junk car on the shoulder," Land said. "Abandoned vehicles left along roadways are a safety hazard and those responsible for leaving them are no longer getting off scot-free."
Once a vehicle is taken into custody, law enforcement has 24 hours to log the information into the Law Enforcement Information Network. As soon as it is entered, the information is updated instantly to the Michigan Auto Lost & Found Web site. The Department of State notifies the last titled owner and secured party on file, who then has 20 days to claim the vehicle or request a hearing to contest the vehicle's abandoned status or ownership. If the owner or secured party does not redeem the vehicle, it can be sold at auction. Owners and secured parties may still be liable for any remaining towing or storage fees not covered by the sale of the vehicle.
Residents searching for their vehicles are encouraged to visit the Michigan Auto Lost & Found Web site at www.Michigan.gov/sos. The Web site allows users to search a database of all abandoned vehicles reported by law enforcement. The site also has tools to assist law enforcement and towing companies in the reporting and filing of abandoned vehicle dispositions as well as a list of frequently asked questions.
For more information about the Michigan Auto Lost & Found Web site and abandoned vehicles, please visit www.Michigan.gov/sos.
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