I am not a lawyer, I am a judgment broker. This article is my opinion, and not legal advice, based on my experience in California. If you ever need any legal advice or a strategy to use, please contact a lawyer.
What if your California judgment debtor seems to have transferred his expensive car to his girlfriend to prevent you from being able to have it levied. What if you know the car’s license plate and Vehicle Identification Number (VIN)? How can you prove it was fraudulently transferred?
Web sites and companies such as CARFAX, only show vehicle repair histories. Other web sites, for example Google Maps, show pictures of homes, and sometimes show cars on the street or in driveways, and occasionally the license plates are legible. Sometimes people show their cars on Facebook, and sometimes you can see the license plates.
However, to see the ownership history for a vehicle, you need to either hire a Private Investigator, or get a commercial requester account with your state’s Department Of Motor Vehicles (DMV). DMV commercial requester account reports may also show the ownership of a judgment debtor’s jet skis, boats, and RVs.
With any level of DMV commercial requester account, you can run a license plate or VIN to see the registered vehicle owner and any lien holders. You can run a vehicle ownership report to see title transfers. You can run a report with your judgment debtor’s name, or some other data, to check what vehicle-related assets are registered to them.
Getting a commercial requester account from the DMV requires one to fill out their complex application form. At best, it takes a few weeks for the DMV to approve an account. At worst, it takes months to get their rejection letter. Their basic account level (which does not provide anyone’s address) costs $50 and lasts for two years.
There is another DMV commercial requester account level that costs $250, to see residence addresses tied to driver licenses or VINs. The problem is, that for a long time, in many states, this level is only available to professionals in government or law enforcement, insurance adjusters, etc.
Private Investigators can only get PO Box or PMB addresses, and even then, only if those were submitted by the vehicle owner.
Any kind of DMV report, as with most other kinds of private information, cannot be shared with third-parties, unless they are DMV commercial requester account holders. Private Investigators can share private DMV data with their clients, with appropriate safeguards.
Because DMV forms are relatively complex, many use third-party web-based services. These web sites help people fill out DMV forms, and have a better and faster interface to order DMV record searches. Most reports cost a few dollars per search. Different states have different laws and required forms, and these sites keep up with the laws. Examples of such sites are RecordsResearch.com, DensPri.com, DMVDesk.com, and imvrs.com.
For those who enforce judgments, when it comes to researching the judgment debtors, professional paid databases are much more useful than the DMV. You can search for traffic violations in the judgment debtor’s county. There, the addresses tied to the judgment debtor’s license plate and driver’s license, is usually available.
ANIs and license plate reports are not admissible as evidence, so you will need to issue subpoenas if the chain of title on a vehicle has been transferred to third-parties, along with a declaration from the custodian of record as to the authentication of such information, and subpoenas need to be issued to yield admissible evidence. If you need to subpoena the DMV, they accept subpoenas via first class mail, as per Government Code 14104.5: (b) Notwithstanding Section 11450.20 of the Government Code, subpoenas and subpoenas duces tecum issued in conjunction with the hearings may be served by first-class mail. Mail it certified (for proof you mailed it) to:
The Director – Legal Affairs Division
Legal Office – 3rd floor
Custodian of Record
2415 First Ave.
Sacramento, CA 95818
Their phone number for subpoena matters, is hard to find, is 916-657-6469.
Before you attempt to have a judgment debtor’s vehicle levied, make sure it is not leased, because leased vehicles usually do not belong to judgment debtors, they belong to banks or some other entity.
Some judgment debtors set up trusts, LLCs, or corporations, that own vehicles and lease them to the judgment debtor. Some judgment debtors create, or are related to leasing companies which have little function other than to own assets and thwart creditors. The related company might lease vehicles, property, furniture, equipment, and computers to the judgment debtor. Sometimes the reverse happens, and people lease their personal assets to companies related to them.