Preventing the DMV from Transferring Title to Your Vehicle
Click here to download the full guide with step-by-step instructions for completing the forms.
Warning! Do not let your insurance lapse! As the registered owner, any accidents or tickets will be your responsibility, even though you don't have control of the vehicle. (CA Vehicle Code § 16020.)
If you decide to let the car go for some reason, be sure to file a Notice of Transfer and Release of Liability form. This will protect you from further liability.
Disclaimer: This guide is intended as general information only. Your case may have factors requiring different procedures or forms. The information and instructions are provided for use in the Sacramento County Superior Court. Please keep in mind that each court may have different requirements. If you need further assistance, consult an attorney.
This packet includes:
You can prevent someone from selling your vehicle without permission by requesting a "courtesy stop" from the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). This prohibits the DMV from transferring the title to a vehicle for 60 days. To extend this indefinitely, you must get an injunction and temporary restraining order against the DMV.
Warning! This is a lengthy and expensive process. If your car is worth $10,000 or less, you may wish to consider suing in small claims court. It is much faster and less expensive. You can't get an injunction in small claims court, but starting the lawsuit may convince the person who has your car to return it.
Although people are often told by DMV staff and others to go to the court and "file an injunction," it is not as simple as it sounds. There is no single "form" to file with the court to obtain an injunction. The court can only issue an injunction as a response to your lawsuit against the person who has the automobile. Therefore, you must first sue the person who has your vehicle. You will need to research an appropriate theory upon which to sue that person, file a complaint against them, and pay a filing fee. Three common legal theories used to sue someone who has unauthorized possession of a car are 1) Breach of Contract, 2) Conversion, and 3) Right of Possession of Personal Property. You can include several different causes of action if they all might apply.
Along with the complaint, you must file an ex parte application for temporary restraining order and injunction. Getting an injunction is a two-part process. In part one; you request a temporary restraining order (TRO). When granted, this will immediately prohibit the DMV from transferring title, but it only lasts a short time.
When you get the TRO, the judge will also set a hearing date for a longer-lasting preliminary injunction. This hearing, called an "order to show cause" (OSC) hearing, takes place a couple of weeks later, so both sides have a chance to prepare arguments. The OSC hearing is not covered in this step-by-step guide. In many cases, the DMV will simply agree to entry of the injunction, so that the OSC hearing is not necessary.
If your case involves a person wrongfully withholding physical possession of your vehicle from you, you can ask the judge to order the defendant to give the car back right away. This order is called a "writ of possession." Ask the Reference Librarian for information about writs of possession if you wish to request one.
Before you start: File a courtesy stop at the DMV. If you have not yet done this, go to the DMV and fill out the agency's "Courtesy Stop Request" form. You can pick up the form at the DMV or download it at http://dmv.ca.gov/forms/reg/reg500.htm.
Step 1: Draft a declaration explaining the facts behind the situation.
Step 2: Draft a complaint against the person who has the car and the DMV.
Step 3: Draft an ex parte application for temporary restraining order and OSC re: preliminary injunction, along with a proposed order.
Step 4: File the Civil Case Cover Sheet (CM-010), Summons (SUM-100), Complaint, and your Declaration and pay the filing fee. Bring your ex parte application for temporary restraining order with you, so you can reserve your hearing date and file everything at the window.
Step 5: Give notice of the ex parte hearing to the other parties, and write a Declaration re: Notice.
Step 6: File all papers in court, including ex parte application, declaration(s) in support, proposed order, and Declaration re: Notice, at least one day before the hearing.
Step 7: Go to the hearing. Most likely the DMV will not oppose the TRO. If the evidence presented is sufficient, the judge will sign the TRO and set a hearing on the order to show cause in about two weeks.
Step 8: Serve all parties the signed TRO, the summons and complaint, and notice of hearing on the OSC.
Step by Step Instructions
Step 1: Write a "declaration" explaining that you own the car, how the defendant got the car, what you've done to try to get the car back, and why you think the defendant plans to sell the car.
This declaration will be used in both to assist in drafting the complaint and as evidence supporting the application for TRO and preliminary injunction. The declaration must explain all the facts the court needs to know to decide in your favor. Each separate fact should be explained in a numbered paragraph, so that you can easily refer to it in other documents. Any documents that you want the judge to see should be attached to the declaration as an exhibit, with an explanation.
For example, to state that you are the owner of the car, you might write as part of your declaration:
4. I am the registered owner of a 2002 Toyota Corolla, license plate number 3TXS596, Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) 7842084092307 ("the Vehicle"). A true and correct copy of the registration certificate is attached as Exhibit "A."
Photocopy the registration and staple it to the end of the Declaration behind a page marking the Exhibit. For instructions on how to prepare an Exhibit page, see the sample Declaration at the end of this Guide. If you have other documents to submit, use the same "true and correct" language to attach them as Exhibits B, C, and so forth.
Your Declaration must be in a specific format, on pleading paper and with a caption. Although it is possible to use the Judicial Council form, Declaration (MC-030), for this purpose, it is typically easier to edit the declaration in a word processor due to the complexity of the information being presented. A customizable template can be downloaded from the Law Library's website at http://www.saclaw.org/Uploads/files/DMV -declaration.rtf. You will need to modify the text in blue to fit the specific facts of your case, and change the color of the text from blue to black. The court will not accept blue type in court pleadings. Although this guide is printed double-sided to save paper, you must print your motion single-sided; the court will not accept double-sided documents.
NOTE: If other people also have facts that support your claims, you should ask them to write up a declaration in this same format.
Step 2: Draft a complaint against the person who has the car and the DMV, including a cause of action for injunction.
Here you must decide what legal theories ("causes of action") apply to your situation, and draft a complaint showing how the facts in your case match the elements of those legal theories. For some causes of action, you can use a standard fill-in-the-blanks Judicial Council form. For others you will need to draft the complaint based on samples at the Law Library. You must research the best causes of action to use in your case. A good starting point is Nolo Press' Win Your Lawsuit,or a book such asCalifornia Causes of Action. Common causes of action include "breach of contract," "conversion," and "equitable right to possession," but whether these or other causes of apply to your case depends upon the specific facts of your case. For more information, see our Legal Resource Guide on "Filing a Lawsuit" at http://www.saclaw.org/pages/filing-a-lawsuit. aspx.
The complaint should begin with general allegations of the facts. As you make the necessary factual statements in your case, you will wish to refer to your Declaration (from Step 1) or even copy the statements from the Declaration into the complaint, so that you can make sure the facts in your complaint are consistent with the facts supporting the TRO. If you copy the statements, be sure to change the tense in the complaint into third person (change "I" and "my" into "Plaintiff" and "his" or "her" into "Defendant").
Whatever other causes of action you choose, you must also include one cause of action for an injunction against the DMV. A customizable template including this cause of action can be downloaded from the Law Library's website at http://www.saclaw.org/ Uploads/files/Step-by-Step/DMV-complaint.rtf. You will need to modify the text in blue to fit the specific facts of your case, and change the color of the text from blue to black. The court will not accept blue type in court pleadings. Although this guide is printed double-sided to save paper, you must print your motion single-sided; the court will not accept double-sided documents. See the sample complaint at the end of this Guide.
You will also need to complete a Summons (SUM-100) (http://courts.ca.gov/documents/ sum100.pdf) and Civil Case Cover Sheet (CM-010) (http://courts.ca.gov/documents/ cm010.pdf), which are mandatory Judicial Council Forms and required in all cases.
Step 3: Draft an Ex Parte Application for Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) and Order to Show Cause (OSC) re: Preliminary Injunction.
The complaint gets the case started, but doesn't request the injunction. This ex parte application does that. In Sacramento, in order to obtain your injunction before the courtesy stop expires, you will need to have these documents ready for filing at the same time as you file the complaint. You will need:
Ex Parte Application
Declaration in Support of Application (your own, and anyone else's who has personal knowledge of the facts) (these are the declarations from Step 1).
A proposed order granting a TRO and setting an OSC hearing date.
Customizable templates of the application and proposed order can be downloaded from the Law Library's website at http://www.saclaw.org/Uploads/files/Step-by-Step/DMV-ex-parte-application.rtf (Application) and http://www.saclaw.org/Uploads/files/Step-by-Step/DMV-proposed-order.rtf (Proposed Order). You will need to modify the text in blue to fit the specific facts of your case, and change the color of the text from blue to black. The court will not accept blue type in court pleadings. Although this guide is printed double-sided to save paper, you must print your motion single-sided; the court will not accept double-sided documents. See the samples at the end of this Guide.
Step 4: File the lawsuit and pay the filing fee.
Make two (2) copies of the Complaint, Summons (SUM-100), and Civil Case Cover Sheet (CM-010). This is the maximum number of copies the court will stamp and return to you (these copies are called "endorsed" copies). Staple each of the copies, but leave the original unstapled. Sacramento County Superior Court uses an electronic filing system in which documents are scanned in electronically. Stapled originals are not accepted because the staple will jam in the scanner, damaging both the document and the scanner.
In addition, make two (2) copies of the Ex Parte Application, Declaration(s) in Support of Application, and the proposed order granting a TRO and setting an OSC hearing date. As with the other documents, the original is not stapled, but each of the copies is stapled.
File the papers at the Gordon D. Schaber Sacramento County Courthouse on 720 9th Street in downtown Sacramento. Because you have prepared an Ex Parte application for orders, you will be permitted to file your lawsuit at the filing window rather than using the drop box system of filing set up by the court. Pay the filing fee. As of the date of this Guide, the filing fee for an unlimited civil case (asking for an amount over $25,000 or for injunctive relief) is $435. You can check the current Sacramento County Court filing fees at http://www.saccourt.ca.gov/indexes/fees-forms.aspx. The court will keep your original documents and stamp the two copies with an endorsement, fill in the case number, and assign the case to a "law and motion" department.
Your ex parte application will be heard in one of the two assigned law and motion departments, either Dept. 53 (916-874-7858) or Dept. 54 (916-874-7848). If the last digit of your case is odd, your law and motion department will be Dept. 53. If it is even, it will be Dept. 54. If the last digit is "0," the department will be determined by the first non-zero digit to the left of the last number. Call the department assigned you to reserve a hearing time in a few days. Note: At least a day before your hearing, you must pay the motion fee and file your motion and supporting documents, including the Declaration re: Notice, with the court (Step 6).
Step 5: Give notice of the ex parte hearing to the other parties.
All parties, including the DMV, must be notified of the lawsuit and the ex parte hearing no later than 10:00 a.m. the court day before the ex parte appearance (absent a showing of exceptional circumstances that justify a shorter time for notice). California Rule of Court 3.1203. Notify the DMV at:
Department of Motor Vehicles
Legal Affairs Division
2415 First Avenue, Third Floor
Sacramento, CA 95818
916-657-6469 phone 916-657-6243 fax
Take notes of how you contacted the parties (telephone, fax, etc.), and how each party responded. Do they oppose the TRO? Will they appear at the hearing? If you can't reach them, detail the steps you took to try to find them, and the wording of any messages you leave.
Based upon your contact with the parties, complete the Declaration re: Notice. A customizable template of the Declaration re: Notice can be downloaded from the Law Library's website at http://www.saclaw.org/Uploads/files/Step-by-Step/DMV-decl-re-notice.rtf. You will need to modify the text in blue to fit the specific facts of your case, and change the color of the text from blue to black. The court will not accept blue type in court pleadings. Although this guide is printed double-sided to save paper, you must print your motion single-sided; the court will not accept double-sided documents. See the sample at the end of this Guide.
Step 6: Take the Ex Parte Application and proposed Order from Step 3, Declaration(s) from Step 1, and Declaration re: Notice from Step 5 to court and file them. Pay the filing fee for the ex parte application.
Before appearing for the ex parte hearing in Department 53 or 54, you must pay the appropriate fee in person at the Civil Filing Windows located at 720 9th Street, Room 102. This must be done at least one day before the hearing. As of the date of this Guide, the fee for filing a motion is $60. You can check the current Sacramento County Court filing fees at http://www.saccourt.ca.gov/indexes/fees-forms.aspx.
Step 7: Go to the hearing. Most likely, the DMV will not oppose the TRO. If the evidence presented is sufficient, the judge will sign the TRO.
The judge will also set a hearing date for the order to show cause in about two weeks, at which time the TRO against the DMV will expire. This second hearing is not covered in this packet. See a Reference Librarian for more information.
Step 8: Serve the TRO, Summons and Complaint, and Notice of the Hearing on OSC to all parties.
Have someone (NOT YOU) serve copies of the signed TRO and the notice of the hearing on the OSC on all parties. Have them serve the summons and complaint as well, if you haven't already done so. The person who is serving your papers for you must complete a proof of service form, typically, either a Proof of Personal Service (POS-020) or a Proof of Service by First Class Mail (POS-030). For more information on these Proofs of Service, see the guides on our website at http://www.saclaw.org/pages/personal-service.aspx and http://www.saclaw.org/pages/pos-mail.aspx, respectively.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
On the Web
"Civil Ex Parte Motions," Sacramento County Superior Court
In the Library
California Forms of Pleading and Practice KFC 1010 .A65 C3
Chapter 303, "Injunctions," has in-depth information on temporary restraining orders and injunctions. Other chapters have sample complaints for various causes of action which you may use to write your Complaint (Step 2), including:
- Chapter 119, "Claim and Delivery," includes a sample complaint for "possession of personal property."
- Chapter 140, "Contract," includes sample complaints for various breach of contract situations.
- Chapter 150, "Conversion," includes sample complaints for "conversion."
Win Your Lawsuit KFC 968 .D86
This book does not cover restraining orders, but it can help you draft the underlying complaint. It contains sample filled-out forms for breach of contract, personal injury, and related causes of action.
Electronic Access: From any computer (library or home) via the Legal Information Reference Center. Instructions are available on our website at http://www.saclaw.org/pages/nolo-ebooks.aspx.
California Causes of Action KFC 1003 .C35 This book describes many of the common causes of action. It comes with a CD-ROM with sample complaints that you can easily download and customize.
IF YOU HAVE QUESTIONS ABOUT THIS GUIDE, OR IF YOU NEED HELP FINDING OR USING THE MATERIALS LISTED, DON'T HESITATE TO ASK A REFERENCE LIBRARIAN.
KF/ Reviewed EN 11/2013