On February 10, 1987, Tennessee Department of Revenue Operations Supervisor Denise Rottero told Judge Geer how Tennessee's auto registration works.
The process begins with the "surrender" of the Manufacturer's Statement of Origin (MSO) by the auto dealer to the Department of Revenue in exchange for Certificate of Title. Asked if a MSO is proof of ownership -Legal title -to the automobile. Ms. Rottero said, "Yes"
"Are you telling me that the ownership of an automobile is NOT title; it's merely evidence that title exists. Your car's legal TITLE is the MSO, which the dealer surrendered to the state. Ms. Rottero said the MSO is put on microfilm for permanent keeping, the original destroyed.
After the trial, spectators expressed shock that their personal automobiles were actually owned by the state. "No wonder state law officers stop people for no reason!" said a housewife. "If your car's got a Tennessee plate, it's theirs, and they can do anything they like to you." That's the law, but it's volutary, No one but Judge Greer has dared say that if you don't surrender your car to the state in exchange for plates, you go to jail.
Ed. Note : This is true not only for Tennessee, but for the other 49 states as well. When purchasing a new automobile, the buyer is required to sign fine print which authorized the dealer to obtain plates and registration for the vehicle. Purchaser need only to read this fine print to see that by doing this they are authorizing the dealer to act a power of attorney, and by doing so the prospective buyer is signing away his rights to that vehicle. When buying a used vehicle, the title already has been signed over to the state.
-From The Investigative Reporter, October 1996
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Last Modified: December 16, 1996