Some repair shops seem to ignore the law with impunity. We recently sought the assistance of law enforcement when a shop owner refused to surrender a vehicle and were pleased with the result.
In Florida, when a lender receives a lien sale notice for alleged vehicle repairs, the lender can post a bond with the Clerk of Court to recover the vehicle. Upon posting the bond, the Clerk issues a Certificate of Release, which the lender’s agent serves on the shop. At that point, the shop is required under Florida law to surrender the vehicle. What happens when the shop refuses to surrender the vehicle after being served with the Certificate of Release?
Under Florida Statute 559.917(3), it is a crime for the shop or its employees or agents to refuse to surrender the vehicle once provided with the Certificate of Release.¹ In a case we handled, the shop owner refused to surrender the vehicle to the lender’s agent after being served with the Certificate. At our request, the agent called the police, who came to the shop but did not take any action. Undeterred, we immediately contacted the Florida DMV to request a hold on the title to prevent any transfer. We then contacted in-house counsel for the Dade County Police Department and explained our position that the police officer who went to the shop should have arrested the shop owner for refusing to surrender the vehicle. They agreed and assigned a Detective to investigate.
When the Detective went to the shop, the owner said he had the vehicle and would surrender it only if he was not arrested. We would not agree to this “oer”, so as result the Detective arrested the shop owner. Four charges were filed, including a felony for grand theft.² After his arrest the shop owner surrendered the vehicle.
We believe involving the police and moving more aggressively against fraudulent shop owners will send a message to the shops, and perhaps slow down “lien sale piracy”.
¹ 559.917(3) states ”A motor vehicle repair shop that, or an employee or agent thereof who is authorized to release the motor vehicle who, upon receiving a copy of a certificate giving notice of the posting of the bond in the required amount and directing release of the motor vehicle, fails to release or return the property to the customer or person pursuant to this section commits a misdemeanor of the second degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083.”
² The charges were –
• Grand Theft (F.S. 812.014(2)(C)6)
• Lien Falsification (F.S. 713.7800(12)(C))
• Failure to release vehicle (F.S. 559.917(3))
• Falsely advertising shop as licensed (F.S. 489.127(1)(A)