CHAPTER 173

AN ACT TO AMEND TITLE 21, OF THE DELAWARE CODE, BY ADDING CHAPTER 4, RELATING TO ABANDONED VEHICLES.

Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Delaware:

Section 1. Title 21, of the Delaware Code, is amended by adding thereto a Chapter 44 as follows:

CHAPTER 44. ABANDONED VEHICLES

§ 4401. Abandoned vehicles; public highway; definition

(a) Any vehicle that is either (1) in such a state of disrepair as to be incapable of being operated in the manner for which it is designed or (2) which shall have been placed upon any State or public highway, for a period in excess of seventy-two hours without being removed, shall be considered to be abandoned for the purpose of this Chapter, except:

1. That vehicles and equipment used or to be used in the construction, operation or maintenance of public utility facilities and which are left in a manner which does not interfere with the normal movement of traffic shall not be considered abandoned vehicles for the purposes of this Chapter.

2. Those vehicles whose owners have properly parked and locked them and have notified the appropriate police authority, as designated in § 4402, that the owner desires to leave the vehicle so parked and secured for a period not to exceed thirty days, except that if during such period the vehicle is no longer secured, or, in the opinion of the appropriate police authority has become a danger to the public, then the vehicle shall be subject to the provisions of this Chapter.

(b) As used in this subchapter the term "State Highway" or "public highway" shall include any portion of the highway located within the right-of-way lines or in the case of limited access highway, the denial of access lines, including shoulders and medium strip.

§ 4402. Enforcement; removal of abandoned vehicles

(a) This Chapter shall be enforced with respect to State or public highways within a municipality which maintains a police force by that police force. In all other instances, the State Police shall enforce the Chapter.

(b) Upon the discovery of a vehicle concerning which there is reasonable grounds to believe it to be an abandoned vehicle, the appropriate police authority shall post a notice, at some conspicuous place on said vehicle, which shall direct that such vehicle be removed by a stated time and date (such time and date to be not less than 24 hours following the posting of such notice) and shall state that if such vehicle is not so removed, it will be removed and stored at the owner's expense and thereafter will be subject to disposal in accordance with law. Such notice shall also set forth verbatim Section 4410 of this Chapter. If the vehicle shall not have been removed by the time and date specified in said notice, the police officer shall take such vehicle into custody and shall cause it to be removed and stored in the nearest suitable place for safe keeping. He shall promptly notify the Motor Vehicle Commissioner, upon a form to be supplied by him for that purpose, of the action which has been taken with respect to such vehicle.

() In the event that a vehicle is abandoned on private property without the consent of the owner or occupant thereof, at the complaint of the property owner or occupant, such vehicle may be caused to be removed by the appropriate police authority in the manner provided in this Chapter, except that the posting required in subsection (b) may be omitted.

(a) The provisions of this Chapter shall not apply to any removal of a vehicle unless the removal is directed by the appropriate police authority.

§ 4403. Notice of removal

The police authority causing the removal of an abandoned vehicle shall immediately ascertain the identity of any person or persons holding a lien against said vehicle. Within five days of the removal of the vehicle, the police authority shall

cause a written notice to be mailed to the registered owner of the vehicle removed and lien holders stating (a) that the vehicle has been removed pursuant to law, (b) the place to which it has been removed, (c) that the vehicle may be sold to satisfy the costs of removal and storage of the vehicle as provided in § 4404 unless those costs have been paid in full on or before 30 days from the date of the removal of the vehicle. If the address of the owner of the vehicle cannot be ascertained by the exercise of reasonable diligence, then the notice provided by this paragraph shall not be required to be given.

§ 4404. Sale of abandoned vehicles

(a) If the costs of the removal and storage of the vehicle is not paid within thirty days from the removal of the vehicle, then the vehicle may be sold at public sale by the person having possession of the vehicle. Notice of the sale shall be posted at three public places in the County in which the vehicle was abandoned and be given by mail to the owner of the vehicle' and to any lien holder of record at his last known ad-' dress as indicated in the records of the Motor Vehicle Department or otherwise. Such notice shall describe the vehicle to be sold and name the day, hour, and place of the sale. The proceeds of the sale shall be applied first to the costs of the sale, then to the costs of removal and storage of the vehicle, and then to the payment of any liens to which said vehicle, or any part thereof, may be subject, in order of their priority, any excess to be disposed of as herein provided.

(b) Any excess in the amount of the selling price of said motor vehicle, at said sale, remaining after the payment of the charges provided in subsection (a) shall be accounted for and remitted to the State Treasurer, who shall create a special fund thereof.

(c) If the owner of said vehicle shall claim any excess remaining after the application of the provisions of sub-paragraphs (a) and (b) hereof within one year of the removal, that excess shall be paid to the owner. If no such claim is made, then the excess shall be deposited by the State Treasurer in the General Fund of the State.

§ 4405. Sale as barring claims or interests

Upon the sale of a vehicle pursuant to the provisions of this Act, all claims or interest therein, shall be forever barred.

§ 4406. Issuance of certificate of title

The Motor Vehicle Department shall issue a certificate of title to the purchaser of a vehicle sold pursuant to the provisions of this Chapter.

§ 4407. Motor Vehicle Commissioner; rules and regulations

The Motor Vehicle Commissioner may make and promulgate rules and regulations to implement the provisions of this Chapter.

§ 4408. Immunity of police officers and garagement

No law enforcement officer acting under this Chapter and no one who tows or stores a vehicle as a result of his being directed to do so shall be liable to criminal prosecution arising from such action or be liable to any person for the injury, loss or destruction of any real or personal property which occurs in the course of the removal or storage of any vehicle taken into custody under said section.

§ 4409. Rights and authority granted to be in addition to other rights and authority

The rights and authority conferred by this Chapter shall be in addition to, and not in lieu of, any other rights or authority possessed by any public officer or property owner with respect to abandoned vehicles.

§ 4410. Penalties

Any person who wilfully abandons a vehicle within the right-of-way of any highway of this State or upon the property of another without his consent, and any person who, being the owner of an abandoned vehicle, wilfully fails to remove it pursuant to a directive given under Section 4402 (b) of this Chapter shall be fined not less than $25.00, not more than $100.00 or be imprisoned not less than two or more than ten days or both. For the purposes of this Section, the fact that a person voluntarily left a vehicle and did not return to remove it within seven consecutive days shall be prima facie evidence of his wilful abandonment of such vehicle.

Section 2. If any clause, sentence, paragraph or part of this Act or the application thereof to any person or circumstances, shall, for any reason, be adjudged by a court of competent jurisdiction, to be invalid, such judgment shall not affect, impair or invalidate the remainder of this Act.

Approved June 18, 1965.