Can you register a stolen motorcycle? Possessing a stolen motorcycle is illegal whether you bought it in good faith or not. You can’t register it in your name, except illegally.
I assume you are confident the motorcycle was stolen. But when did you realize it was stolen? A few days after purchase?
Did you not run a VIN check? If you did, it is likely that the website offering the VIN check service had outdated information at the time. It is in this regard that I advise checking VIN from at least three service websites, whether buying a motorcycle from a private seller or dealer.
Despite that it is illegal and almost difficult to register a motorbike reported as stolen, thieves still seize loopholes to get away with this crime. Before you read further, you might be interested in how a stolen motorcycle can be made legal.
Can you register a stolen motorcycle?
Legally, you can’t register a stolen motorcycle you just bought. The best alternative is to turn in the motorcycle and report to the police that you bought the motorcycle in good faith. You will also need proofs such as a bill of sale and title or pink slip (if you were issued). Screenshots of your chats and voice records with the thief go a long way to prove your innocence. I advise seeking an attorney’s advice to simplify the process of getting out of this mess.
How is it a mess? The police will seize the motorcycle, update the database and record the stolen motorcycle as found. The previous owner or the insurance will be contacted. But if no institution or a person turns up, the police may auction the motorcycle, and you have a chance to buy it back and register in your name legally.
How to Register a Stolen Motorcycle [What a Thief Does]
Regarding how to register a stolen motorcycle, two major ways to register a stolen motorcycle is to switch the VIN with an existing and similar vehicle model or strip and run technique. Kindly refer to my article disclosing how a stolen motorcycle becomes legit.
Thieves typically switch VINs or buy a new VIN for a stolen motorcycle before registering it.
Moreover, most states require the previous title certificate, bill of sale, and motorcycle theft status before registering for an applicant to transfer ownership to their name.
A more lenient state like Vermont does not request title certificates for motorcycles older than 15 years. In Georgia, a motorcycle older than 1985 may be registered without a title. In Texas, you can get a bonded title to transfer motorcycle ownership with no title.
However, these states inspect the motorcycle VIN for theft before registering it. Since a motorcycle has been reported stolen, none of these states can help until after changing the VIN illegally.
Meanwhile, if you attempt to register a stolen motorcycle in your name, you are converting a stolen property, and the penalty is huge compared to getting caught riding it. You could even claim you’re joyriding or saw it parked untouched with keys intact for many days.
If it pleases the cops, they may take you to jail and hold you up to 72 hours on suspicion of converting a stolen property.
Another method crooks use to get a stolen motorcycle registered as clean is the Strip and Run technique. A motorcycle thief does not switch with an existing VIN, parts the motorcycle, and disposes of the parts with VIN, including the frame and sometimes the engine.
When the police come across the disposed parts with VIN, the motorcycle becomes legal and is updated on the stolen motorcycle database.
Typically, thieves run this technique out of state to decrease the chances of an insurance or the previous owner claiming the motorcycle. When nobody claims the motorcycle, a crook dealer is contacted to bid on the engine and frame, or any parts with VIN earlier disposed of.
When they win the bid, a new title is issued, and the VIN record becomes clean of theft. What next? The thief has a legal motorcycle and can register it as legit. Of course, the motor vehicle department can’t question him because he bid on it directly or through a dealer and won the auction. He tows it home. He could even claim he purchased the motorcycle parts, including tires, to set up the motorcycle. But then, no official will engage the thief this far.
Getting a Title for a Stolen Motorcycle
Following the sequence of this article, you can now tell what someone does before registering a stolen motorcycle. I.e., a thief does not just hop into the nearest motor vehicle department for registration to avoid getting caught.
Before we proceed, I have covered how you can get a title for a motorcycle without one. Note, however, that you may not receive a title certificate, except through buying a title bond in a state like Texas.
How someone gets a title to register a stolen motorcycle:
In Vermont, for example, you can register a motorcycle without a title. However, the motorcycle must be older than 15 years.
So, if the stolen motorcycle is not older than 15 years, the thief gets to park it without riding until it completes 15 years.
Vermont requires a notarized bill of sale (or similar payment options), photo ID, and the bike. The motorcycle must not be salvaged. Moreover, theft inspection will be performed to check the legitimacy of the motorcycle. Since the motorcycle carries a legal VIN or was VIN-switched, the inspection at the local police department comes out clean.
6% sales tax is also charged on the motorcycle, plus the registration fee of about $25. A thief is not given a title for a stolen motorcycle since it exceeds 15 years.
Finally, the thief may decide to title the “now legit” motorcycle in another state to sell it legally or keep it in a state like Vermont.
If the stolen motorcycle was manufactured during the 1980s, a thief might register it. Typically, older motorcycles do not have titles, and many states understand it. If you take such a motorcycle to the motor vehicle department, they will say, “Sir, we do not have this motorcycle in our record.”
In Georgia, motorcycles older than 1985 may be registered without a title. Assuming the stolen motorcycle is the 85 Yamaha VMAX, a thief can title it easily.
The motor vehicle department requires a bill of sale or similar proof, photo ID, theft inspection certificate (a thief can present the motorcycle for theft inspection at the local police station or any dedicated agency), the motorcycle. They may be required to undergo an emission test since the motorcycle is older.
Finally, the thief completes the title application form and submits other documents alongside the required fees. They may be charged sales tax.
Note: Titles are not issued after transferring ownership.
A bonded title serves as a surety for the “now legit” but stolen motorcycle to be registered.
Typically, the motorcycle ownership remains with the applicant (the thief or subsequent buyer) for 3 years. If nobody comes up to claim the motorcycle within this period, the thief wins.
If someone buys the motorcycle with a bonded title, they become liable for any bonded claim.
To get a bonded title, a thief uses a state like Texas. Texas allows out-of-state and in-state residents to apply for a bonded title on a motorcycle. However, the motorcycle must not be salvaged. It must undergo theft inspection theft (at the local sheriff’s office or police station) and emission test.
When the motorcycle passes the theft inspection and emission tests, the thief receives two certificates qualifying the motorcycle for registration.
He fills out the title application, provides the bill of sale (or similar payment evidence), valid photo ID, and the registration fee. Viola, the ownership is transferred to him. Sales tax may be charged too.
What happens if you’re caught with a stolen motorcycle?
Regardless of how you ended up with the stolen motorcycle, it’ll be taken from you and returned to the insurance company or original owner. If you purchased the motorcycle from a dealer, you could claim from them because they sold you a stolen bike. But if you purchased the motorcycle from an out-of-state seller, off eBay, CL, etc., tough luck.
Regarding further actions against you for possessing stolen property, it depends on the following:
- Whether you are aware, assume, or know that the motorcycle was stolen.
- Whether you bought the motorcycle in good faith with proof such as a receipt.
- Your previous criminal record. Whether there is a case against you for receiving stolen goods/property or theft.
- Whether you they get the impression that you stole the motorcycle.
When you get out of this case, it is recorded against you and will be referenced if any theft activity is traced to you in the future.
To register a stolen motorcycle is not as easy as it appears in this article. First, a thief must legalize the motorcycle before registering it.
Some persons prefer to sell the motorbike without a title once they switch the VIN. Thus, passing the burden of titling the motorcycle onto a buyer, except they need such a motorcycle for parts or projects.
Finally, always read on how to avoid buying a stolen bike before engaging in any motorcycle deal, and never trust the seller. Because the VIN check site does not report a motorcycle as stolen does not mean it is legit. Make sure you register a used motorcycle immediately after purchase to learn escape problems.