How can I limit my liability on a DUI if my name is also on the car title? 8 Answers as of February 01, 2011

I am 59 year old male. My wife is 51 year old alcoholic. We co-own a vehicle which has title in both our names, because lien holder has us both on the loan. My wife has been driving under the influence. Police advised me to have my name removed from title or make vehicle unavailable to wife. However, a lien holder will not modify title except under condition of refinancing, which we cannot do.

1: Do I have the legal right to take any reasonable steps (remove car battery, hide the key, remove tires, etc) to prevent wife from driving the car?

2: Is there any legal form or document which can release me from liability in the event she causes damage while driving our vehicle?

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The Law Office of Harry E. Hudson, Jr.
The Law Office of Harry E. Hudson, Jr. | Harry E. Hudson, Jr.
I would suggest that you discuss the issue of a conservatorship of at least the estate with a probate attorney. As the car is a part of the estate, you would have the legal authority to prevent her from driving. You may need a doctor's opinion to prevail. Sorry but I do not handle probate cases.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 2/1/2011
Law Office of Joseph A. Katz
Law Office of Joseph A. Katz | Joseph A. Katz
The tow company should release the car to you immediately (next day), as you did not know your wife was going to drive while under the influence. Yes, you can hide the car from her. You might try to get the registration in your name only, if you cannot modify the title. You are going to have trouble with the liability issue, so I would try to prevent her from using the car. If that is not possible, you might be able to require her to provide her own insurance. If she has a DUI conviction, your rate probably went up, anyway. If your wife refuses to stop driving, I think the problem goes deeper than her drinking. She's jeopardizing the marriage and the family finances. You did not say, but I think she, or she and you, should get counseling. She obviously needs treatment, counseling and/or intervention regarding her drinking.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 1/26/2011
Mettias & Associates
Mettias & Associates | Jimmy Philip Mettias, Esq
Thank you for submitting your questions to our firm, Mettias & Associates, in regard to your vehicle title, liability for another's DUI, and whether you can use "self help" to prevent the other party from driving under the influence. Since title and lien were taken in both names, this complicates your ability to interfere with her "possession and use" of the property (car). While there are some standard laws that may effect your rights, this seems like a situation which requires additional facts and information. Please schedule a free consultation with our office to review your legal options.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 1/26/2011
Law Office of Thomas F. Mueller
Law Office of Thomas F. Mueller | Thomas Mueller
You can use any form of prevention necessary ( but not physical dorce or restraint ) without fear of legal consequences. However it will be difficult to limit your legal liability in case she runs into someone. Just make sure your insurance limits are high. Of course if she has lost her driving privilege due to DUI convictions then you can call the police if she gets behind the wheel.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 1/26/2011
Nelson & Lawless
Nelson & Lawless | Terry Nelson
You cant effectively limit your liability unless you prevent her from driving. Any time there is an accident, the driver of a vehicle, and the registered owner[s] are all liable. IF you could get the lender to change title to only her on any vehicle she drives, that would help, but any judgment against a spouse could be enforced against all the community property, such as your house, cars, bank accounts, etc.

As an owner on title, you can do anything you want to the vehicle, including disabling or locking it, changing the keys, etc. Consider having an Ignition Interlock device installed on the vehicle she drives, like the courts can order on repeat DUI drivers, to prevent it from starting in the presence of alcohol on the breath.

Consider putting her in rehab, AA, etc. and curing the problem. Good luck.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 1/25/2011
    Law Office of Andrew Roberts
    Law Office of Andrew Roberts | Andrew Stephen Roberts
    2. No
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 1/25/2011
    Law Office of Jeff Yeh
    Law Office of Jeff Yeh | Jeff Yeh
    What you should do is remove "her" name from the title, because if her name remains on the title, the car will suffer certain consequences. For example, if she is convicted of a DUI, an ignition interlock device (IID) will have to be installed on it, because her name is on the title. Making the vehicle unavailable to her won't be enough to overcome the legal requirement.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 1/25/2011
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