Inspired by this Judge Judy case: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IyCtWQsIqAg

The plaintiff was not allowed to own a car, allegedly because she had too many traffic violations.

Is this possible? In what states there's legislation stating that people can lose the right to own property? Or is it something the courts can do as a punishment?


2 Answers 2


Judge Judy is a "reality" TV show. She is no longer acting as an actual judge, and the producers of the show more or less get to determine how the "case" goes. I wouldn't rely on any claims you may have heard on the show. They may be hopelessly garbled.

For example, it may be that their license was suspended so it might be difficult for them to buy insurance and insurance is mandatory in every state but NH. Car dealers (except in NH) require proof of insurance to sell a car. This might effectively prevent them from owning a car. Or, it could be they are on the "scofflaw" list for failure to pay parking or traffic violation fines. In Seattle a car can be booted if it is registered to the scofflaw, which might inspire some people to register a car under someone else's name.

In the larger picture the government in the US can certainly forbid certain forms of ownership. For example the federal government forbids me from owning nuclear weapons, anti-aircraft missiles, ricin, child pornography, and a whole bunch of drugs.

  • 1
    I think it's actually off base to treat Judge Judy's rulings as being untethered from the law. She's acting as an arbitrator resolving actual legal disputes, so she is still required to apply the actual law to the facts of her cases. Certainly there are differences in how she operates and how a judge operates, but she's probably not just making things up.
    – bdb484
    Commented Jan 6 at 19:29
  • Not to say that the rest of your analysis is necessarily off base. I imagine that the party was technically only prohibited from registering the vehicle, rather than owning it -- or something else similar to the possibilities you described -- and they're just glossing over those details.
    – bdb484
    Commented Jan 6 at 19:31
  • techicality: Judge Judy is acting as an arbitrator, generally handlign cases that would otherwise end in small claims court.
    – Trish
    Commented Jan 6 at 19:44
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    @bdb484 I'm not sure that's true. My understanding is that she has to follow the rules of arbitration as specified in the contract among the concerned parties. The contract can't specify anything illegal, but I don't think the show is bound to follow rules of evidence, precedence, or even equity as understood by the civil courts. Certainly at least a couple of her "rulings" have been appealed to a civil court (not easy for an arbitration ruling) and overruled. Arbitrators ore sometimes employed to apply Sharia law or orthodox Jewish law instead of civil law. Commented Jan 6 at 19:45
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    If I lost my driving license, that’s no reason that I can’t buy a car for my adult son or daughter to drive. I’d be the owner, I would just not be allowed to drive. Or take a rich guy with no license who buys a rolls Royce and hires a chauffeur. There must be some unusual reason to not be allowed to own a car.
    – gnasher729
    Commented Jan 7 at 17:49

This is unlikely to happen.

The law prohibits you to from driving a car on public roads in certain cases. I don't see how it would be possible to prohibit you from legally purchasing a vehicle. Nothing has ever kept you from building your own roads and driving on it or driving on somebody else's (Like track days at a race course.)

The USA is committed to free trade and not allowing to legally buy a vehicle would have problems when faced with a constitutional test. Especially, the 14th Amendment, which states the following...

Amendment XIV - Section 1

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

(emphasis mine)

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