The above is enough to send even the calmest personality type into a flat spin, and rightly so. Chances are that you are not going to see your vehicle anytime soon (if at all) if the vehicle in question was previously reported stolen by the rightful owner.
What if, according to Police records, my car was stolen?
Roadblocks are not only to flag drunken drivers, but also to search vehicles for drugs or to check VIN numbers. Each vehicle has a unique VIN number (17-digit number). Tampering with vehicle VIN numbers is a technique used by thieves to resell stolen vehicles to unsuspecting customers.
When an owner reports a vehicle missing and said number forms part of the Police’s stolen vehicle database, the Police Officer is within his/ her right to confiscate the vehicle. You will be provided with a receipt confirming that the Police took your vehicle. Keep this receipt safe. In some instances, the Police will also arrest you. In such an instance, you will not be provided with a receipt immediately.
Now the Police has the vehicle in question (and your identity) necessary to proceed with a criminal case against you and/ or the seller. The vehicle now forms part of evidence in a criminal case.
Everyone is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a Court of law.
If you are found guilty, you will never get the vehicle back. You may also be liable for a fine and/ or jail time. Proving to the Police (via eft confirmation to the seller, for example) that you did in fact buy the vehicle, only proves that you most probably did not steal the vehicle yourself. It does, however, not rule out that you might have known that you are purchasing a stolen vehicle. Knowing that a vehicle is stolen, and still buying that vehicle, constitutes a criminal offence and you can be charged on the grounds of being an accomplice and being in possession of stolen property.
It is a good idea to cooperate fully with the Police and to provide the identity and personal details of the seller in the form of a statement/ affidavit, as this will assist with the Police with the investigation and lead to the quicker resolve of your nightmare. Provide the Police with as much information as possible.
It is an even better idea to always do your homework prior to purchasing a vehicle. Check VIN numbers online (there are various services available subject to a fee) and get Police clearance. Make sure that the seller of the vehicle is legit prior to handing over your hard-earned cash/ deposit for a new set of wheels.
Do I have a claim against the seller?
You do have a claim against the seller for the purchase price of the vehicle for undue enrichment should you not have known that the vehicle was in fact stolen. There is something called a legally implied warranty against eviction. This means that the seller has an obligation to ensure the purchaser’s undisturbed possession of the property sold. This warranty may also not be contractually excluded by way of the Purchase and Sale Contract.