The U.S. Department of Justice has made The National Motor Vehicle Title Information System (NMVTIS), an on-line database, available to states and consumers to discover automobile fraud and to provide new tools for law enforcement to investigate fraud, theft and other crimes involving vehicles. That is very good news. The system was made available for consumers on January 30th and is accessible through third-party, fee-for-service Web sites. The Office of Justice Programs’ Bureau of Justice Assistance administers NMVTIS in coordination with the Federal Bureau of Investigation. It took 16 years and litigation by three consumer safety groups to finally get this project done.
Consumers will have access to some valuable information. The system allows state motor vehicle administrators to verify and exchange titling and brand data and provides law enforcement officials, consumers and others with critical information regarding vehicle histories. Consumers now have access to the vehicle’s brand history, odometer data and basic vehicle information and can be redirected to the current state of record to access the full title record if available. Law enforcement can track the vehicle’s status from state to state by accessing the system directly.
Last year, Public Citizen, joined by Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety (CARS) and Consumer Action, filed suit against the Department of Justice in a California federal court. In the suit, the government was asked to implement the NMVTIS, which Congress had actually required 16 years ago. In September, the court told DOJ it had until January 30th to make the information available on the Internet and to issue a rule requiring states, insurance companies and junk yards to report safety information.
The information to be made available is still incomplete and covers less than two-thirds of U.S. vehicles, according to Public Citizen. That’s because insurers and junk yards have until March 31st to begin reporting data. Currently, 10 states are not reporting vehicle data at all, while two states that are — New York and California — are attempting to prevent public access to that data. Public Citizen has sent letters to the governors of California and New York asking them to comply with the federal law and court order. Public Citizen also sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder requesting that he address the issue. Deepak Gupta, the Public Citizen lawyer who handled the lawsuit, observed:
We’re encouraged by the Justice Department’s actions and look forward to working with the DOJ to make sure that consumers from every state can access this potentially lifesaving information. Congress mandated this database in 1992, and it’s about time it became a reality.
Ultimately, with full participation from all 50 states and the District of Columbia, NMVTIS will prevent stolen motor vehicles, including clones, from entering into interstate commerce, protect states and consumers from fraud, reduce the use of stolen vehicles for illicit purposes including fundraising for criminal enterprises, and provide consumer protection from unsafe vehicles, according to the Justice Department.
Source: The National Law Journal
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