Traffic Q&A: Is a car owner required to tattle on red-light runner who borrowed it?

Question: I loaned my car to someone, and about a week later I got a notice from the city of Seattle that it had been caught on camera running a red light.

I have the option of signing a Declaration of Non-Responsibility form, declaring that I wasn’t the one driving, but the form asks for the name, date of birth, driver’s license number and address of the person who actually was driving.

My question is: Do I really have to rat out the person who was driving? — Joe from Tacoma

Answer: Tacoma attorney Martin Duenhoelter, who specializes in traffic law, says no.

“A person who receives a photo ticket absolutely does not have to rat out the driver,” Duenhoelter said.

“State law says the registered owner is the presumptive driver of the car at the time of the violation captured on camera,” he said, “but it also says ‘This presumption may be overcome if the registered owner states, under oath, in a written statement to the court or in testimony before the court that the vehicle involved was, at the time, stolen or in the care, custody or control of some person other than the registered owner.’ ”

“There is no obligation under the statute to name the actual driver — ever,” Duenhoelter said.

The city of Seattle uses an unusually threatening Declaration of Non-Responsibility form, Duenhoelter said, but it doesn’t change the law.

As for people who actually were driving and are tempted to lie on the form to get out of the $124 fine, Duenhoelter offers this free legal advice: “Don’t do it.”

“If people want to lie on the form when they were actually driving to get out of a fine, they may rest assured that their honor is worth exactly $124,” he said.

“Who wants to go through life knowing the cost of your honor is $124?”

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