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Official Opinion 97-24

Official Opinion 97-24

July 21, 1997
To: 

Commissioner
Department of Revenue

Re: 

Owners and insurers are required to surrender to the State Revenue Commissioner license plates of vehicles which become salvage or total loss vehicles.

The Attorney General has been asked for an opinion as to whether House Bill 205 (Act No. 42), effective on May 1, 1997, (the "Act") repealed, by implication, the requirement for owners and insurers of vehicles which become salvage or total loss vehicles to surrender the license plate on such vehicles to the State Revenue Commissioner ("Commissioner").

The Act, among other things, changed the process for handling license plates and registrations when transferring vehicles not designated as salvage or total loss vehicles. By amending O.C.G.A. § 40-2-42, the Act requires transferors of motor vehicles to retain the license plates of the motor vehicle being transferred. Generally, the license plate is transferred, by the Commissioner, to the transferors of the

newly acquired vehicle. Previously, license plates did not remain with the transferor but were transferred along with vehicles to transferees. O.C.G.A. § 40-2-31. See also O.C.G.A. § 40-2-41. You specifically asked if the repealer clause of the Act repealed those parts of O.C.G.A. § 40-3-36 which require that license plates on vehicles that become salvage or total loss vehicles be surrendered to the Commissioner. See 1997 Ga. Laws 419, 441 (Sec. 42).

The answer to your question is no. First, the Act excepts salvage and total loss vehicles from the new license plate transfer requirements by amending O.C.G.A. § 40-2-20 to state that, in the case of "a salvage motor vehicle . . . the transferor, the salvage dealer, or insurer . . . shall, prior to the sale of such vehicle, surrender the license plate of such vehicle to the commissioner." Additionally, the Act amends O.C.G.A. § 40-2-45 such that "[n]o person shall transfer a license plate or decal from one vehicle to any other motor vehicle which is a 'salvage' or 'rebuilt' motor vehicle . . . unless the owner of such vehicle submits satisfactory proof to the commissioner" that the mandated inspection of the "salvage" or "rebuilt" vehicle has been performed.

Secondly, "repeals by implication are not favored by law, and a subsequent statute repeals prior legislative acts by implication only when they are clearly and indubitably contradictory, when they are in irreconcilable conflict with each other, and when they cannot reasonably stand together." Fulton County v. Corporation of the Presiding Bishop of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, 133 Ga. App. 847, 849 (1975). Further, "laws in pari materia should be considered in order to ascertain the intention of the legislature." Undercofler v. L.C. Robinson & Sons, Inc., 111 Ga. App. 411, 414 (1965).

The express language of the Act, when construed using the above- quoted canons of statutory construction, indicates that the General Assembly did not intend to repeal the license plate surrender requirements of O.C.G.A. § 40-3-36. Thus, owners and insurers are required to surrender to the Commissioner the license plates and registrations of vehicles which become salvage or total loss vehicles.

Prepared by:

DENISE E. WHITING-PACK
Assistant Attorney General


Official Code of Georgia Annotated § 40-3-2(11) defines a "salvage motor vehicle," in part, as a vehicle damaged to "the extent that its restoration to an operable condition would require the replacement of two or more major component parts;" or a vehicle for "which an insurance company has paid a total loss claim." The specific provisions of concern are O.C.G.A. § 40-3- 36(a)(2)(B); O.C.G.A. § 40-3-36(a)(2)(C); O.C.G.A. § 40-3-36(i); and O.C.G.A. § 40-3-36(j), all of which require registered owners or insurers of salvage motor or total loss vehicles to remove and surrender license plates to the Commissioner. These provisions also allow the issuance of a new certificate of title indicating that the vehicle is a salvage vehicle. A new registration and license plate will be issued based on a salvage title.