I often get calls from people whose vehicles are about to be repossessed. The callers sometimes tell me that the repossession agent threatened to have them arrested if they don’t tell him where the vehicle is located and want to know whether they are guilty of a crime by refusing to tell the repo agent where the vehicle is.
Under Minnesota law, it’s a crime if:
(1) You are (a) legally obligated for an auto loan; (b) you know where the vehicle that is secured by the auto loan is located; and (c) with intent to defraud, you refuse to disclose the vehicle’s location to a creditor or repossession agent that is legally entitled to repossess the vehicle.
(2) You–whether you are the borrower or not–conceal the vehicle if you know that the creditor is legally entitled to repossess the vehicle.
The potential penalty, provided by Minnesota Statute section 609.62, is imprisonment for up to three years or a fine of up to $6,000.
So under Minnesota law, it may be a crime to refuse to disclose the location of, or otherwise conceal, a vehicle that your lender is legally entitled to repossess. The key phrase here, though, is “legally entitled to repossess.” You may have defenses to the repossession, which would alleviate the potential criminal penalties because the lender isn’t legally entitled to repossess your vehicle. It’s probably best to be proactive and discuss the situation with an attorney before the repo man is knocking on your door. You should also check out this post for some suggestions that may allow you to keep your vehicle. Again–and I can’t emphasize this enough–don’t wait until the repo man is at your house to consider your options and talk to an attorney.
It’s definitely worth noting that I’ve never been involved in a case where a repossession agent or lender filed criminal charges against someone for refusing to tell them where the vehicle was or for concealing the vehicle. In my experience, repo agents use the threat of arrest to intimidate consumers into turning over the vehicle and rarely, if ever, act on them. But there’s a first time for everything and consumers should tread carefully because of the potential for criminal penalties.
If you’re facing repossession and want to discuss your legal rights with an attorney experienced in vehicle repossession cases, feel free to contact me. I offer 30 minute consultations for $175 and can help you figure out the best course of action for your situation.