Bill summaries are authored by CRS.

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Passed House amended (10/06/1992)

Anti Car Theft Act of 1992 - Title I: Tougher Law Enforcement Against Auto Theft - Subtitle A: Enhanced Penalties for Auto Theft - Amends the Federal criminal code to provide that whoever, possessing a firearm, takes (or attempts to take) a motor vehicle that has been transported, shipped, or received in interstate or foreign commerce from the person or presence of another by force and violence or by intimidation shall: (1) be fined, imprisoned up to 25 years, or both; (2) if serious bodily injury results, be fined, imprisoned up to 25 years, or both; and (3) if death results, be fined, imprisoned up to life, or both.

Urges the Attorney General to work with State and local officials to investigate car thefts, including armed carjacking, and (as appropriate and consistent with prosecutorial discretion) prosecute persons who allegedly violate such law and other relevant Federal statutes.

Increases penalties for: (1) the importation and exportation of stolen motor vehicles, off-highway mobile equipment, vessels, or aircraft (stolen vehicles); and (2) the transportation, sale, or receipt of stolen vehicles.

Provides for the civil forfeiture of any property which represents or is traceable to the gross proceeds obtained from a violation of prohibitions against: (1) altering or removing motor vehicle identification numbers (VINs); (2) importing or exporting stolen motor vehicles; (3) armed robbery of automobiles; (4) transporting stolen motor vehicles in interstate commerce; or (5) possessing or selling a stolen motor vehicle that has moved in interstate commerce.

Directs the court, in imposing sentence on a person convicted of a violation or conspiracy to violate any of such prohibitions, to order that the person forfeit to the United States any property which represents or is traceable to the gross proceeds obtained as a result of such violation.

Sets penalties for knowingly owning, operating, maintaining, controlling, or conducting operations in a chop shop. Directs the Attorney General (as appropriate) to commence a civil action for a permanent or temporary injunction to restrain such violations.

Subtitle B: Targeted Law Enforcement - Requires the Director of the Bureau of Justice Assistance to make grants to Anti Car Theft Committees submitting applications in compliance with the requirements of this subtitle.

Sets forth application requirements, including: (1) a statement from a chief executive of such committee that the applicant committee is either a State agency or agency of a unit of local government, and is or will be financed in part by a fee on motor vehicles registered by or possessed or insured within the State of not less than one dollar per vehicle, or in the same manner and to the same extent as is a similar program financed and implemented in a State like Michigan; and (2) an assurance that Federal funds received under a grant under this subtitle shall be used to supplement and not supplant non-Federal funds that would otherwise be available for activities funded under such grant.

Requires the Director to: (1) allocate to each State a proportion of the total funds available under this subtitle that is equal to the proportion of the number of motor vehicles registered in such State to the total number registered in the United States; and (2) ensure that all applicant States have an opportunity to receive grants from an available appropriation. Specifies that any State that has not met specified requirements under this Act shall be excluded from any such allocation.

Sets forth provisions regarding: (1) grant amounts; (2) awards involving multiple committees; and (3) grant renewal.

Authorizes appropriations.

Subtitle C: Report Regarding State Motor Vehicle Titling Programs to Combat Motor Vehicle Thefts and Fraud - Directs: (1) the Secretary of Transportation and the Attorney General to establish a task force to study problems which relate to motor vehicle titling, vehicle registration, and controls over motor vehicle salvage which may affect the motor vehicle theft problem; and (2) the task force to report to the President, the Congress, and the chief executive office of each State.

Title II: Automobile Title Fraud - Directs the Secretary: (1) by January 1996, to establish a National Motor Vehicle Title Information System (System) which will enable States and others to gain instant and reliable access to information maintained by other States pertaining to the titling of automobiles, unless the Secretary determines that an existing information system meets specified requirements under this title and will enable the Secretary to implement this title as early as possible, and designates such system as the System for purposes of this title; and (2) in establishing the System, to ascertain the extent to which title and related information to be included in the System will be adequate, timely, reliable, uniform, and capable of aiding in efforts to prevent the introduction or reintroduction into interstate commerce of stolen vehicles or parts.

Permits the Secretary to authorize the Operation of the System established or designated by contract through an agreement with a State or States, or by redesignating a third party which represents the interests of the States.

Provides that: (1) operation of the System shall be paid for by a system of user fees and should be self-sufficient and not dependent on Federal funds; and (2) the amount of fees collected and retained, subject to annual appropriation Acts, by the operator (excluding fees collected by the operator and passed on to a State or other entity providing information to the operator) shall not exceed the costs of operating the System.

Requires that the System, at a minimum, enable a user instantly and reliably to determine: (1) the validity and status of a document purporting to be a certification of title; (2) whether an automobile bearing a know VIN is in a particular State; (3) whether an automobile known to be titled in a particular State is or has been a junk or salvage vehicle; (4) for an automobile known to be titled in a particular State, the odometer reading information of such vehicle on the date its certificate of title was issued and such later odometer information, if noted by the State; and (5) whether an automobile bearing a known VIN has been reported as a junk or salvage vehicle.

Sets forth provisions regarding the availability of System information to: (1) participating States; (2) law enforcement officials; (3) prospective purchasers; and (4) insurance carriers. Prohibits the operator from releasing information other than what is necessary to reasonably satisfy requirements under this title (with respect to minimum capabilities of the System), collecting an individual's social security number, or enabling users of the System to obtain an individual's address or social security number.

Requires each State to: (1) make titling information maintained by such State available for use in establishing the System; and (2) establish a practice of performing an instant title verification check before issuing a certificate of title to an individual or entity claiming to have purchased an automobile from an individual or entity in another State.

Directs the Secretary, by January 1, 1994, to: (1) conduct a review of systems used by the States to compile and maintain information concerning the titling of automobiles; and (2) determine, for each State, the cost of making titling information maintained by such State available to the operator of the System.

Sets forth: (1) guidelines for the award of grants; and (2) reporting requirements (by the Secretary to the Congress).

Requires operators of junk or salvage yards and insurance carriers to file monthly reports with the operator of the System. Establishes penalties and penalty procedures for violations.

Title III: Amendments on Theft Prevention Regarding "Chop Shop" Related Thefts - Amends the Motor Vehicle Information and Cost Savings Act (the Act) to: (1) include within the definition of "passenger motor vehicle" any multipurpose passengers vehicle and light-duty truck that is rated at 6,000 pounds gross vehicle weight, including any vehicle commonly known as a "passenger van"); (2) define "chop shop" (which includes any building or premise where persons engage in concealing, disassembling or reassembling, or storing a passenger motor vehicle or motor vehicle part unlawfully obtained for specified purposes); (3) redefine "major replacement part" to include any major part which is a customized or modified version of an original major part in or on a completed motor vehicle after the manufacture of such vehicle but before the time of its delivery to the first purchaser; and (4) provide that, in the case of major parts installed by the motor vehicle manufacturer, the theft prevention standard may not require any part to have more than a single identification (as under current law, but repeals the prohibition on such standard requiring that a motor vehicle have identification of more than 14 of its major parts).

Directs the Secretary, within two years, to promulgate a vehicle theft standard which conforms to specified requirements under the Act and which applies with respect to the covered major parts which are installed by all foreign and domestic manufacturers into passenger motor vehicles (other than light-duty trucks) in not to exceed one-half of the lines designated as high theft lines. Specifies that such rule shall be effective for model years applicable to such passenger motor vehicles as provided under the Act.

Requires the Secretary, within three years after such rule is promulgated, to designate all remaining lines of such passenger motor vehicles (other than light-duty trucks) and apply such standard to such lines in conformance with specified requirements. Provides that such rule shall also apply to major replacement parts described in this paragraph and shall be effective for model years applicable to such passenger motor vehicles as provided under the Act.

Directs the Attorney General to: (1) make a finding prior to the Secretary's initiation and promulgation of such a rule that the rule shall be promulgated unless the Attorney General finds that requiring such additional parts marking for all of the applicable passenger motor vehicles would not substantially inhibit chop shop operations and vehicle thefts; (2) transmit the finding and the record upon which the finding is based to the Secretary; (3) determine, by December 31, 1999, after notice and public hearing, whether one or both rules promulgated have been an effective means to substantially inhibit the operation of chop shops and vehicle thefts; and (4) make a separate determination, by such date, after notice and public hearing, as to whether the antitheft devices for which an exemption is authorized are an effective substitute for parts marking in substantially inhibiting vehicle theft.

Requires the Secretary and the Attorney General to keep the appropriate legislative committees of the Congress informed about the actions taken or planned.

Authorizes the Secretary to periodically redetermine and establish the median theft rate, but not more than every two years.

Revises provisions regarding the designation of high theft vehicle lines and parts. Provides that: (1) any motor vehicle line subject to parts marking requirements under the Act on the date of enactment of this Act shall continue to be subject to such requirements, with exceptions; and (2) for each model year subsequent to the model year to which a vehicle theft prevention standard applies (as under current law) through model year 1996, the Secretary may grant exemption for not more than two additional lines of any manufacturer.

Authorizes the Secretary, for model year 1997 through model year 2000, to grant such an exemption for not more than one additional line of any manufacturer and such exemption shall not affect the validity of the exemption of any line previously exempted. Specifies that, for model years subsequent to 2000, the number of lines for which the Secretary may grant such an exemption (if any) shall be determined by the Attorney General.

Prohibits failure to comply with any rule prescribed by the Secretary or Attorney General (currently, by the Secretary) under provisions of the Act concerning theft prevention standards.

Amends the Act to prohibit any person from knowingly owning, operating, maintaining, controlling, or conducting operations in a chop shop, of any kind or transport by any means any passenger motor vehicle or passenger motor vehicle part to or from a chop shop. Directs the Secretary, as appropriate, to commence a civil action for permanent or temporary injunction to restrain a violation, or to assess and recover a civil penalty of up to $100,000 per day for each such violation, or both.

Requires motor vehicle insurance carriers who obtain possession of and transfer junk or salvage motor vehicles to: (1) verify, in accordance with procedures established by the Attorney General, whether such motor vehicle is reported as stolen; and (2) provide verification to whomever such carrier transfers or sells any such vehicle identifying the VIN or derivative thereof of such vehicle and verifying that such vehicle has not been reported as stolen (or, if reported as stolen, that such carrier has recovered the vehicle and has proper legal title to the vehicle).

Prohibits (with exceptions) persons engaged in the business of salvaging, dismantling, recycling, or repairing passenger motor vehicles from knowingly selling or distributing in commerce or transferring or installing a major part marked with an identification number without: (1) first determining, through a procedure established by the Attorney General, that such major part has not been reported as stolen; and (2) providing the purchaser or transferee with a verification identifying the VIN or derivative thereof of such major part, and verifying that such major part has not been reported as stolen.

Directs the Attorney General to: (1) maintain in the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) a National Stolen Auto Part Information System (system) containing the identification numbers of stolen passenger motor vehicles and parts; (2) specify procedures by which individuals or entities seeking to transfer a vehicle or vehicle parts may obtain a determination whether a part is listed in the system as stolen; and (3) enter into an agreement for the operation of such a system separate from the NCIC, upon a determination that the NCIC is not able to perform the required functions of the system.

Requires that the system, at a minimum, include the following information pertaining to each passenger motor vehicle reported to a law enforcement authority as stolen and not recovered: (1) the VIN; (2) the make and model year; (3) the date on which the vehicle was reported as stolen; (4) the location of the law enforcement authority that received the reports of the vehicle's theft; and (5) if the vehicle at the time of its theft contained parts bearing identification numbers or the derivative thereof different from the VIN, the identification numbers of such parts.

Directs the Attorney General to establish in the Department of Justice and appoint an advisory committee with respect to the system. Sets forth provisions regarding the membership, duties, and reporting requirements of the committee.

Requires a person lawfully selling or distributing in interstate commerce passenger motor vehicle parts, or an individual or enterprise engaged in the business of repairing passenger motor vehicles, the Attorney General, or the entity or entities designated by the Attorney General, upon request by an insurance carrier, to immediately provide such carrier or person with a determination as to whether the system contains a record with a passenger motor vehicle or part bearing a particular VIN or derivative thereof having been reported stolen. Authorizes the Attorney General to require such verification as deemed appropriate to ensure that the request is legitimate and will not compromise the security of the system.

Authorizes appropriations.

Title IV: Export of Stolen Automobiles - Amends the Tariff Act of 1930 to require the Commissioner of Customs to: (1) direct customs officers to conduct at random inspections of automobiles and of shipping containers that may contain automobiles that are being exported, to determine whether such automobiles were stolen; (2) require all persons or entities exporting used automobiles (including automobiles exported for personal use) by air or ship to provide to the Customs Service, at least 72 hours before the export, the VIN and proof of ownership of each such automobile; (3) establish specific criteria for randomly selecting used automobiles scheduled to be exported, consistent with the risk of stolen automobiles being exported, and check the VIN of each automobile selected pursuant to such criteria against the information in the NCIC to determine whether such automobile has been reported stolen; and (4) make available to the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, at the Director's request, all VINs so obtained.

Directs the Secretary of the Treasury to conduct a pilot study of the utility of a nondestructive examination system to be used for inspection of containers that may contain automobiles leaving the country for the purpose of determining whether such automobiles have been stolen.