News in 2022

Does That Vehicle You Just Towed Belong to a Military Servicemember?

for Towing on Tuesday, February 1, 2022 by Beth Williams

Let’s say your tow company is in possession of a vehicle. You’ve attempted to make notification by securely accessing the registrant’s name and address. But no one has arrived to claim the vehicle. You notice there’s a military sticker on the vehicle or something inside has a military insignia. Do you move forward with taking possession of the vehicle or do you take steps to verify whether the owner is active military first?

According to the U.S. Department of Defense’s official Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) Website, the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) (50 USC App. § 3901 et seq, as amended), formerly known as the Soldiers' and Sailors' Civil Relief Act of 1940, provides members on active-duty status with important safeguards in areas of financial management that include rental agreements, security deposits, evictions, installment contracts, credit card interest rates, mortgages, civil judicial proceedings, income tax payments, etc. SCRA website enables financial service providers to determine if an individual is eligible for the provisions of SCRA.

That includes enforcement of liens on an impounded vehicle without a court order if the vehicle is owned by a service person. In statements issued by the Department of Justice last fall, they reported on multiple cases of tow companies having to pay significant civil penalties and additional compensation for the vehicle owner because they auctioned off vehicles and violated SCRA. There are two resources ADD is aware of that can help identify vehicle owners that are active-duty military. The first, is the website mentioned previously and found at https://scra.dmdc.osd.mil/scra/#/home. This is a free service that can be conducted using the name and date of birth alone, without requiring their social security number.

A second website called the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act Centralized Verification Service that provides search results without those two pieces of personal information but there is a fee of nearly $39 per search. That site can be found at https://www.servicememberscivilreliefact.com. Penalties and compensation for violations are costing tow companies, finance companies, and others who sell assets in conflict with the SCRA tens of thousands of dollars. We encourage all of ADD’s valuable customers to have a SCRA plan for their business and educate employees on ways to verify that the vehicle you may auction off isn’t owned by one of our country’s servicemembers.