Section 40-12-260

Transfer of license plates; registration procedures; receipts; penalty.

(a) Effective January 1, 1998, license plates, except for license plates issued under the provisions of Section 40-12-290, et seq., or any subsequent enactment which authorizes special license plates based on vehicle age, shall not be transferable between motor vehicle owners and the following registration procedures shall apply:

(1) When a current and valid Alabama motor vehicle license plate has been obtained for the current tax year for use on a motor vehicle and the vehicle has been sold or otherwise transferred to a new owner, the license plate shall be removed from the vehicle and retained by the original plate owner.

(2) In the event an owner purchases, trades, exchanges, or otherwise acquires another vehicle of the same license registration classification, the licensing official shall authorize the transfer of the current and valid Alabama license plate previously obtained by the owner to the replacement vehicle for the remainder of the current license year. In the further event the owner acquires a vehicle requiring a higher license classification, the owner shall first request a transfer of the valid Alabama license plate to the newly acquired vehicle, and, immediately, shall surrender the license plate to the issuing official, and upon payment of the difference in registration fees on a monthly prorated basis, shall be issued the higher license plate classification. Provided, that the owner shall not be entitled to a refund when the registration fee for the vehicle to which the plate(s) is to be assigned is less than the registration fee for that vehicle to which the license plate(s) was last assigned. Furthermore, if the owner does not have or does not acquire another vehicle to which the license plate(s) may be transferred, the owner shall not be entitled to a refund and the license plate shall be revoked.

(3) In the event the owner of a license plate purchases, trades, exchanges, or otherwise acquires a vehicle for which a license plate has been issued during the current license year, and the license plate has not been removed by the previous owner in accordance with this section, the new owner of the vehicle shall remove and return the license plate to the county license plate issuing official of the county where the owner resides, if the owner is an individual, or of the county in which said motor vehicle is used or operated if the owner is a firm, corporation, or association, who shall receive, account for, and dispose of the license plate. However, if the license plate has expired, the new owner shall not be required to surrender the license plate.

(4)a. The new owner of a motor vehicle shall, within 20 calendar days from the date of vehicle purchase or acquisition, make application to record the registration of the vehicle by the transfer to or the purchase of a license plate for the newly acquired vehicle with the license issuing official of the county in which the owner resides if the owner is an individual, or with the license issuing official of the county in which the motor vehicle is used or operated if the owner is a firm, corporation, or association and shall pay the fee provided under Section 40-12-271.

b. The county license issuing official shall provide the registration record to the Department of Revenue. One copy shall be retained in the files of the county license issuing official, and one copy shall be furnished to the registered owner. The Department of Revenue shall have the authority to prescribe rules and regulations for the administration of this paragraph.

c. Licensed motor vehicle dealers shall not be required to register vehicles in the name of the dealership for vehicles held for resale. The dealership shall register any motor vehicle and purchase an Alabama license plate of the proper classification for any motor vehicle purchased, leased, or otherwise withdrawn from dealer inventory for private, personal, or business use by any person, including any of the dealership employees.

(5) Any person failing to register a motor vehicle by timely transferring the license plate as provided by subsections (a)(2) and (a)(4) above and (a)(7) below shall pay a penalty of fifteen dollars ($15). The penalty shall be paid into the treasury of the county, with the county treasurer maintaining these moneys as a special training fund. Only one special training fund shall be established in each county. These moneys shall be used for all reasonable and necessary official educational expenses directly related to the assessment and collection of taxes on motor vehicles or registration and titling of motor vehicles. The special training fund shall be for the use of the officials in the county charged with the motor vehicle responsibilities mentioned above, and shall be in addition to the amount budgeted for these offices. Moneys shall be disbursed by the county treasurer for the payment of the motor vehicle related educational expenses of those officials and their employees by the county officials requisitioning expenditures from the fund. Not more than three thousand dollars ($3,000) shall be paid into the special training fund during any fiscal year (October 1 through September 30). Any excess moneys shall accrue to the general fund of the county.

(6) Any person, firm, or corporation engaged in the business of selling or otherwise disposing of motor vehicles which are required to be registered in this state shall furnish each purchaser of a motor vehicle with a legal bill of sale on which there shall be printed, stamped, or otherwise inscribed in a bold and conspicuous manner the words: "Penalty of fifteen dollars ($15) due if vehicle is not registered in the name of the new owner within 20 calendar days."

(7)a. In the event a motor vehicle is registered pursuant to Section 32-6-150 or Section 32-6-300, or any other section designated by the Commissioner of Revenue by rule or regulation, and is transferred to the transferor's spouse or child, at the option of the transferor, the license plate may remain on the vehicle in the hands of the transferee upon payment of the fee for recording the transfer of the license plate.

b.1. A surviving spouse, desiring to operate a vehicle devolving from a deceased spouse, shall present an application for certificate of title to the licensing official in his or her name within 20 days of obtaining ownership. The licensing official shall then transfer the license plate to the surviving spouse. If the motor vehicle is not subject to the provisions of the Alabama Uniform Certificate of Title and Antitheft Act (Section 32-8-1, et seq.), the surviving spouse shall provide the licensing official evidence that ownership has been conveyed to the surviving spouse.

2. In the event that a vehicle is registered and bears a distinctive plate or a registration fee-exempt plate, the plate shall be surrendered to the licensing official within 20 days of the date of obtaining ownership conveyance and, upon surrender, the owner shall make application for registration of the vehicle. If the motor vehicle is not subject to the Alabama Uniform Certificate of Title and Antitheft Act (Section 32-8-1, et seq.), the surviving spouse shall provide the licensing official evidence that ownership has been conveyed to the surviving spouse.

(8) In the event the owner of a motor vehicle junks the vehicle or the vehicle is deemed a total loss, as defined in Section 32-8-87, the license plate may be transferred to a motor vehicle of the same class during the same tax year. The owner of the license plate, after authorization by the licensing official, and after compliance with the provisions of the Alabama Uniform Certificate of Title and Antitheft Act, if applicable, may transfer the plate to a vehicle currently owned but not operated by that owner for the period remaining before expiration of the registration, or the license plate may be transferred to a newly acquired vehicle.

(9) All references in this article to the words tag or plate shall have identical meaning and may be used interchangeably. The words tag, plate, and owner shall mean singular or plural.

(b)(1) Any person operating a self-propelled vehicle required to be registered in this state on the public roads and highways of this state shall retain within the vehicle a current and valid Alabama motor vehicle registration receipt issued to the vehicle being operated. This subsection shall apply to all vehicles registered on or after January 1, 1998.

(2) Within the first 20 calendar days of purchase or acquisition of a self-propelled motor vehicle, prior to receiving a copy of a registration receipt, there shall be retained within the vehicle being operated a legible copy of the legal bill of sale if the motor vehicle is not subject to the provisions of the Alabama Uniform Certificate of Title and Antitheft Act (Section 32-8-1, et seq.), or the owner's permit copy of the application for certificate of title, or an official copy of a current and valid Alabama temporary registration receipt as authorized under Section 32-6-210 to Section 32-6-219, inclusive, assigned to the vehicle being operated.

(3) a. The retained documents specified by subsections (b)(1) and (b)(2) above shall be presented, on demand, by the vehicle operator, for inspection by law enforcement officers. The registration receipt may be presented in either a tangible format or in an electronic format. It shall be unlawful for the operator to fail or refuse to present, when requested by a law enforcement officer, the official registration receipt, or other document herein described, or legible copy thereof, for the vehicle being used or operated.

b. The use of a cellular phone or other electronic device to display evidence of a registration receipt does not constitute consent for law enforcement or other governmental employees to access any other content on the electronic device. Any law enforcement officer or other governmental employee presented with an electronic device pursuant to this section shall be subject to the provisions of Section 36-1-12 for damages to the electronic device resulting from acts taken when viewing the device pursuant to this section.

(4) A motor vehicle dealer licensed under the provisions of Section 40-12-390 to Section 40-12-400, inclusive, or a motorcycle dealer licensed under the provisions of Section 40-12-62, or any motor vehicle manufacturer utilizing manufacturer license plates as authorized under the provisions of subsection (g) of Section 40-12-264 shall not be required to comply with this subsection for self-propelled motor vehicles within the dealer inventory of the motor vehicle dealer, or, in the case of the motor vehicle manufacturer, shall not be required to comply for new vehicles utilizing the manufacturer license plates and being operated within the provisions of subsection (g) of Section 40-12-264.

(c) Any person failing to perform the duties required by the provisions of this section shall be guilty of a Class C misdemeanor.

(Acts 1935, No. 194, p. 256; Acts 1939, No. 611, p. 978; Code 1940, T. 51, §706; Acts 1945, No. 361, p. 578; Acts 1953, No. 480, p. 598; Acts 1961, Ex. Sess., No. 162, p. 2109; Acts 1963, No. 296, p. 766; Acts 1965, 1st Ex. Sess., No. 201, p. 269; Acts 1969, No. 1032, p. 1914; Acts 1978, No. 540, p. 601, §1; Acts 1996, No. 96-746, p. 1307, §1; Act 2004-529, p. 1106, §1; Act 2017-242, §1.)