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Motor Vehicles; Safety and Financial Responsibility Act of 1953

October 20, 1982

Subject:

Motor Vehicles; Safety and Financial Responsibility Act of 1953.

Requested By:

Mary Claire McNaught Public Safety Attorney Winston-Salem, North Carolina

Question:

If a vehicle is operated on the private property of another, including but not limited to those areas defined in G.S. 20-4.01(32) as public vehicular area, when financial responsibility is not in effect, is it correct to charge the owner pursuant to G.S. 20-313?

Conclusion:

No. If the vehicle is operated solely upon private property without evidence of operation on a street or highway and does not bear current registration plates.

Yes. If there is evidence that the owner of a motor vehicle has operated or permitted such motor vehicle to be operated upon the streets or highways of this State making such vehicle subject to the registration requirements or if currently registered coupled with proof of records of the Division of Motor Vehicles indicating that the owner did not have financial responsibility in effect at the time of operation.

G.S. 20.313 reads:

"§ 20-313. Operation of motor vehicle without financial responsibility a misdemeanor. — (a) On or after July 1, 1963 any owner of a motor vehicle registered or required to be registered in this State who shall operate or permit such motor vehicle to be operated in this State without having in full force and effect the financial responsibility required by this Article shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and upon conviction shall be fined or imprisoned in the discretion of the court.

(b) Evidence that the owner of a motor vehicle registered or required to be registered in this State has operated or permitted such motor vehicle to be operated in this State, coupled with proof of records of the Division of Motor Vehicles indicating that the owner did not have financial responsibility applicable to the operation of the motor vehicle in the manner certified by him for purposes of G.S. 20-309, shall be prima facie evidence that such owner did at the time and place alleged operate or permit such motor vehicle to be operated without having in full force and effect the financial responsibility required by the provisions of this Article." (Emphasis added)

G.S. 20-309(a) reads:

"(a) No self-propelled motor vehicle shall be registered in this State unless the owner at the time of registration has financial responsibility for the operation of such motor vehicle, as provided in this Article. The owner of each motor vehicle registered in this State shall maintain financial responsibility continuously throughout the period of registration."

To charge the owner of vehicle under G.S. 20-212, the vehicle must be registered (or required to be registered), have been (or being) operated on the streets or highways and the records of the Division of Motor Vehicles disclose the lack of required financial responsibility. It should be noted that a PIN check which indicates an insurance "stop" will not suffice as a motor vehicle record check. Before a charge is made there should be a statement by the owner that the required financial responsibility is lacking or a certification by the Division of Motor Vehicles that there is no record of the required financial responsibility for the vehicle in question. The charge should be as to the owner not the operator if the operator is other than the owner.

Rufus L. Edmisten Attorney General

William W. Melvin Deputy Attorney General