Let’s fine the right motorists for parking violations
The state has begun to block registration of used cars if past owners neglected to pay fines for parking tickets.
Thursday, October 6, 2005
» An editorial that ran yesterday on Page A10 incorrectly stated that the state Department of Motor Vehicles had issued "temporary clearances" so current owners of used cars would not be held liable for the previous owners' parking tickets. The state Judiciary's Traffic Violations Bureau issued the clearances. DMV is a city agency.
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PURCHASERS of used cars in Hawaii have been put on notice that they may be forced by a dumb state law to pay the parking tickets of the previous owner for the transaction to be completed. The Legislature should change the law to make clear that cars don't break laws; people do, and the offenders should be held accountable.
The 1993 law went unnoticed until a state Judiciary employee came across it several months ago and pointed out that it should be followed. The law says a motor vehicle owner who has been issued a parking ticket should pay the fine. Otherwise, an "entry" will be made in the vehicle's record to keep it from being sold "until the outstanding assessment is paid" or the new owner is able to have it dismissed in court.
Before the employee discovered this silly law, the state Department of Motor Vehicles had routinely issued "temporary clearances" so the current owner would not be held liable for the previous owner's parking tickets. That practice has been discontinued since Sept. 12 in recognition of the law.
Honolulu resident Bob Webster was given a temporary clearance to have his Buick Regal registered after buying it in June 2004 but was blocked from renewing its registration this year because of a $65 traffic ticket the previous owner had neglected to pay. "I was outraged that I would be held responsible for something that somebody else did," he told the Star-Bulletin's Mary Vorsino.
As well he should have been. Webster was told that he could go to court to challenge the assessment, but he would have to post bond equal to the parking ticket fine. He would be freed from the fine only if he prevailed in court. Otherwise, the bond would be forfeited.
Unlike other traffic violations, parking tickets are attached to the vehicle because the person who parked illegally may not be present. That is understandable, but the responsibility should be placed on the vehicle's owner at the time of the infraction.
Judiciary officials understand and recognize that the law may need to be changed to protect people like Webster. Lynn Inafuku, a Judiciary staff attorney, wrote in a letter to Webster that the Judiciary's administration has decided to submit legislation to change the law.
In the months before the Legislature will have an opportunity to amend the law, the state should exercise its discretion and allow resumption of those temporary clearances.
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