How That “Junked Vehicle” on Your Front Lawn Can Lead to Misdemeanor Charges

March 12th, 2020 by Tad Nelson in Traffic Offenses

Traffic violations normally involve vehicles that are actually traveling on public highways. But the Texas Transportation Code also regulates the use of non-operating or “junked” vehicles. Section 638.071 of the Code defines a junked vehicle as one that is either “wrecked, dismantled or partially dismantled, or discarded,” or that has been inoperable for more than 30 consecutive days while on private property (or just 72 hours if on public property). A junked vehicle must also have an expired license plate or no license plate at all. The Transportation Code further allows individual municipalities to implement their own junked vehicle ordinances with even stricter requirements.

By law, a junked vehicle is classified as a “public nuisance.” This means the owner of the junked vehicle can be charged with a misdemeanor offense, similar to any other traffic violation. If found guilty, the maximum penalty is a $200 fine. The court can also order the “removal” of the junked vehicle.

Corpus Christi Court Dismisses “Takings” Lawsuit from Owners of Antique Cars Removed by City

But as the saying goes, one man’s junk is another man’s treasure. Suppose that vehicle the city claims is junk is actually a valuable antique? Can you seek compensation if the city forces its removal?

A recent decision from the Texas 13th District Court of Appeals, Tucker v. City of Corpus Christi, brought these questions to light. In 2013, a municipal judge in Corpus Christi ordered the removal of four vehicles from private property under that city’s junked vehicles ordinance. This prompted the owners of the vehicles to sue the city twice.

The first lawsuit was filed in 2015 but later dismissed for lack of prosecution. The plaintiffs then refiled their claim in 2017. Among other things, the plaintiffs argued the removal of their antique vehicles was a “taking” of private property requiring compensation under the United States Constitution.

The City pointed out there was a two-year statute of limitations applicable to takings claims. Since the plaintiffs re-filed their lawsuit in 2017–four years after the original removal of their vehicles–their claims were barred by the statute of limitations. Both the trial court and the 13th District agreed and dismissed the case.

On appeal, the plaintiffs argued that a 10-year statute of limitations should apply to their case. But as the appeals court explained, the 10-year period is only for claims involving real property acquired through adverse possession. Here, the plaintiffs maintained the government damaged their personal property, i.e., their antique cars. The two-year limitations period was, therefore, the correct one.

Contact Texas Traffic Violations Lawyer Tad Nelson Today

While misdemeanor traffic violations may not land you in jail, they can still have a significant negative impact on your driving record. That is why it is always a good idea to contest a ticket. An experienced Houston Texas traffic violations attorney can assist you in this process. Contact the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates in Houston, Galveston, or League City today if you need help fighting a traffic ticket. Or call 281-280-0100


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