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Abandoned Vehicle Laws: Beware the Windshield Tag

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By George Khoury, Esq. on October 11, 2016 3:54 PM

At some point in their lives, drivers will see an abandoned car on the side of the highway that looks like it broke down months ago, with a bright red, orange, or yellow sticker covering about a quarter of the windshield. That giant sticker is known as a windshield tag, and if it's on the car, it means that local law enforcement has marked the vehicle to be impounded as an abandoned vehicle.

How an abandoned car is handled will depend on local laws. For example, in Minneapolis, a vehicle can't be left on a street or highway for more than 72 consecutive hours or it will be presumed abandoned. Then, if you don't rescue your vehicle, it may be removed, impounded, and possibly sold at auction.

My Car Broke Down, and Now It's Gone!

There is never a good time for a car to break down. Sometimes, when it happens, people need to get somewhere and must leave their car on the side of the road until later, and when they return, they find their car has disappeared from where they left it. This happens frequently when a car is left on the highway as parking is generally prohibited on the side of major roadways.

The first step would be to call the local police department. They will likely be able to tell you where your car was towed to. At this point, you need to act fast as the towing fees will continue to increase thanks to storage fees. If you can have your vehicle towed to a mechanic, or even to your home, you may be avoiding fees that can quickly add up and cost you more than a new used car.

Abandoned Vehicles on Your Property

Some communities have laws prohibiting vehicles from sitting and rusting away in a person's front yard. When law enforcement tags a vehicle on your own property, it will likely not be removed until you agree to the removal as the government cannot seize your property without payment thanks to eminent domain. However, beware that if you get a windshield tag on a car on your own property, there may be fines that can be assessed against you, that will quickly overshadow whatever payment you would have received due to eminent domain.

Occasionally, a city, township or county may be motivated to remove "blight" from the community by getting rid of abandoned cars from public and private property. When there are numerous abandoned vehicles, a community can increase enforcement of the laws relating to abandoned vehicles to either force owners to properly store the cars, or dispose of them.

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