What are Florida’s vehicle abandonment laws?

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TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Florida’s state statutes cover a lot of topics, large and small. It ranges from laws about parking violations to who might be allowed to pick up abandoned property on the side of the road. It also has provisions for charging penalties for or storing abandoned vehicles, like cars or trucks.

Florida Statute 705.103 covers procedures for abandoned or lost property, vehicles and vessels included.

According to the law, cars and trucks and other vehicles are property just like any other object.

If it gets left on the side of the road or on public property without being picked up or taken away by the owner, it can be considered “a public nuisance” and law enforcement officers have to place a notice on it, telling the owner or other interested persons that the object or vehicle is unlawfully on public property and has to be removed within five days.

Once that notice is placed, it’s up to the owner to pay for the cost of removal, storage, and publication of the notice. That legal document has to have the description of the item, where it can be found, and must be signed and dated for when the notice is posted.

The officer who places the notice also has to provide information like their name, title, contact address and phone number to be reached at about the item or car in question.

Notices have to be at least eight by 10 inches and weatherproofed. Officers also have to try to track down the owner to let them know their property is somewhere it shouldn’t be.

If it’s a motor vehicle, like a car, the law enforcement agency also has to let the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles know the name and address of the person who has filed a lien on the vehicle, if applicable.

After five days of posting the notice, and mailing it to the address of the owner if it is known, the vehicle can be declared a public nuisance if it’s still where it was left.

Once it’s a public nuisance, law enforcement are allowed to keep it for use by the state or local government, or they can keep it for themselves, as well as trading it to another government agency or unit who may want it. The abandoned vehicle can also be donated to a charitable organization to sell.

If a vehicle is left on a highway, some slightly different rules apply.

According to the Florida Highway Patrol, a car left on limited access roadways are typically towed after six hours, or after 48 hours on other roads. Then, tow companies are required to contact the registered owners that they have the vehicle.

Still, no matter where a vehicle is left behind, local governments like the City of Tampa or somewhere like Sarasota County can have their own local ordinances that have different lengths of time to declare a vehicle abandoned. Many commercial towing companies say the general rule of thumb is about 35 hours for a vehicle to be considered abandoned and be towed.

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