Settlement reached over service members’ vehicles

Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam Public Affairs

The U.S. Department of Justice announced on Feb. 15 that it has reached an agreement with the City and County of Honolulu and its contracted towing company to remedy alleged violations of the Service Members Civil Relief Act (SCRA).

Under the settlement, the city is creating policies and procedures for the auction, sale or disposal of vehicles owned by active duty service members.

They include: • Providing SCRA compliance training to employees who deal with abandoned-vehicle enforcement and policies. • Changing motor vehicle registration to require military service members to provide their Social Security numbers, date of birth, local and permanent mailing addresses, personal and military email addresses and telephone numbers, and emergency contact information. • Changing the Abandoned Motor Vehicle in Custody notice letter to inform service members or their representatives that they have 60 days to reclaim their vehicles or submit a SCRA rights waiver. • Implementing an informational brochure for service members regarding the city’s abandoned vehicle laws, long-term storage choices and SCRA waiver.

Honolulu’s new procedures will ensure that service members receive notice that their car has been taken into custody by Honolulu, even if they are deployed off island, and requires the city to obtain a court order or a valid SCRA waiver prior to auctioning a car owned by an active-duty service member.

Service members are required to properly dispose of vehicles when they permanently change duty stations.

The Justice Department’s investigation revealed that between 2011 and 2016, Honolulu auctioned 1,440 cars registered to individuals who had identified themselves as service members on city forms during the motor vehicle registration process.

The Department’s lawsuit alleges that Honolulu and the towing company violated the SCRA by auctioning or otherwise disposing of cars owned by protected service members without first obtaining the required court orders.

Under the agreement, Honolulu must adopt new SCRA-compliant procedures, compensate three service members who complained to military legal assistance attorneys that the city had unlawfully auctioned off their cars while they were at sea aboard Navy ships, and establish a $150,000 settlement fund to compensate other service members whose SCRA rights may have been violated.

The SCRA protects service members from certain civil proceedings that could affect their legal rights while they are in military service. One of those protections is the requirement that a person holding a lien on the property or effects of an active-duty service member obtain a court order prior to enforcing the lien.

For more information about the Department’s SCRA enforcement, visit www.servicemembers.gov.

Servicemembers and their family members who believe that their SCRA rights have been violated should contact their nearest Armed Forces Legal Assistance Program Office. Office locations may be found at legalassistance.law.af.mil/content/locator.php.

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Category: News