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I was interested in buying a truck from someone in Kentucky, USA. A friend said he heard the person selling it had performed a hit-and-run about a month earlier. No one was hurt, but police were looking for the perpetrator. Apparently no one got a licence plate number, only a description of the truck. It was pretty obvious the truck had hit something.

Suppose I bought the truck. Would I be responsible for the hit-and-run if they ever found out exactly who did it? I did speak to the police, that I thought I knew who it was, but they didn't care at all.

  • Of course the police aren't going to care about someone who thinks they know who committed a crime, unless you have the evidence, and not just hearsay. – yuritsuki Jul 20 '16 at 2:31
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    Obviously nobody could think you owned the truck at the time of the hit and run once you show them the dated bill of sale for the truck. You are planning to keep the paperwork, aren't you? – phoog Jul 20 '16 at 2:46
  • In the UK we have a V5c document which is created when ownership of a vehicle transfers - meaning you'd be able to show that you didn't own the vehicle at the time of the incident. I'd be surprised if the US doesn't have something similar? – stripybadger Jul 20 '16 at 7:41
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The Kentucky restriction against "hit and run" is KRS 189.580, which says that

The operator of any vehicle, whose vehicle…is involved in an accident …shall immediately stop and ascertain the extent of the injury or damage and render reasonable assistance

Notice that the legal requirement is for the operator to do something: the law requires nothing of the vehicle itself. Supposing that you are correct that the vehicle was operated by someone who hit and ran, then if the police gain suspicions that such is the case, and if those suspicions are reasonable, then then could obtain a warrant to obtain evidence from the vehicle, which could be used against the operator. The fact that you (might) now own the vehicle would not transfer legal responsibility to you – responsibbility goes with the actor, not the instrument.

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    As the previous poster said, hit and run applies to the operator of the vehicle. However, let us suppose you do buy this vehicle. At any time over the statute of limitations period the police might have probable cause to stop you, force you out of your vehicle at gunpoint, and make you lie face down in the dirt in handcuffs. – user3344003 Jul 19 '16 at 18:04
  • @user3344003 yeah, thats what I was worried about. Like buying something stolen at a yard sale. Honestly didn't know, but still end up in jail or at least hassled. – Dan Shaffer Jul 19 '16 at 19:10
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    Buying something stolen at a yard sale is slightly different. When you do that, you have paid money for the goods, but you are not the owner - the person they were stolen from is. (Some jurisdictions have rules allowing a sale in a marche ouvert to transfer good title; a yard sale might count.) That is aside from the risk of being charged with handling stolen goods (if that is an offence in your jurisdiction). – Martin Bonner supports Monica Jul 20 '16 at 7:20
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One risk you might not have considered: If any law enforcement agency ever decides that the truck might have been involved in a serious crime, then they could obtain a warrant to seize it as evidence. Whoever owns the truck at that point could be deprived of its use for an indefinite period.

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