HONOLULU (KHON2) — Stephanie Childers thought she had done everything right when she sold her car privately eight months ago in Honolulu. She had no idea that she would soon be facing a nightmare involving the DMV, courts, and lawmakers, with her ordeal highlighting a legal loophole that has left her helpless.
Childers had sold her vehicle to a friend of a friend, making sure to fill out and submit the necessary transfer form. For a while, it seemed as if everything had gone smoothly.
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“I had no tickets for a long time. I thought everything was good. I put in my transfer form, everything was good on my end,” Childers said.
However, at the beginning of the year, Childers began receiving a slew of tickets for the car she had sold, including expired registration, expired safety check, and parking tickets.
“I had no idea at first until I started getting default judgments in the mail,” she explained. To date, Childers has been hit with 20 tickets totaling over a thousand dollars.
Childers reached out to the DMV for help, but they informed her that they could not release her from liability for the tickets.
“For parking and traffic citations, only a judge can release the owner of liability. The city’s Motor Vehicle Division branch or our department cannot release liability in that manner,” said Kim Hashiro, the Honolulu Department of Customer Services Director.
With no other options, Childers turned to the courts, but the small claims court informed her that they could not help either.
“They told me they don’t have an appeal to take your name out of a car’s title, only to put one in,” she said.
In her quest for a solution, Childers contacted the office of United States Representative Ed Case, who contacted the city on her behalf. The City responded with a letter that stated that state law prevents them from acknowledging the transfer without the buyer, and they are now exploring how the law could be amended.
The City hopes to introduce a bill addressing this issue during the next legislative session.
Last year, the City saw over 171,000 car ownership transfers, an increase of 17%.
According to Hashiro, the problem of incomplete vehicle ownership transfers is becoming a recurring issue.
Meanwhile, Childers remains stuck in this legal limbo, fearing the potential consequences.
“Anything with a crime, a car accident, anything – all of that’s going to come back to me, and I don’t want the police knocking on my door for something I have nothing to do with,” she said.
To prevent others from facing a similar situation, Hashiro recommends the seller go with the buyer to the DMV to complete the transfer together.
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She advises making an appointment, which can be done here.