Code Section Group

Harbors and Navigation Code - HNC

DIVISION 3. VESSELS [399 - 786]

  ( Division 3 enacted by Stats. 1937, Ch. 368. )

CHAPTER 3. Wrecks and Salvage [510 - 571]

  ( Chapter 3 enacted by Stats. 1937, Ch. 368. )

ARTICLE 1. Wrecks and Wrecked Property [510 - 527]
  ( Article 1 enacted by Stats. 1937, Ch. 368. )

510.
  

The sheriff of each county shall give all possible aid and assistance to vessels stranded on its coast, and to the persons on board. He shall exert himself to save and preserve such persons, vessels, and their cargoes, and all goods and merchandise which may be cast by the sea upon the land, and to this end he may employ as many persons as he may think proper. All citizens shall aid the sheriff when required.

(Enacted by Stats. 1937, Ch. 368.)

511.
  

Wrecked property may be kept or reclaimed at the time of the wreck by the owner, consignee, or other person entitled to possession; but if any person has a just claim for salvage and necessary expenses incurred in saving it, the claim shall be paid before the property can be reclaimed.

(Enacted by Stats. 1937, Ch. 368.)

512.
  

The sheriff of any county in which any wrecked property is found, when no person entitled to possession appears, shall take possession of it in the name of the people, cause its value to be appraised by disinterested persons, and keep it in some safe place to answer the owner’s claims.

(Enacted by Stats. 1937, Ch. 368.)

513.
  

If wrecked property is in a perishable state, the sheriff shall apply to the judge of the superior court, upon a verified petition, for an order authorizing the sheriff to sell it. If the judge is satisfied that a sale of the property would be beneficial to the persons interested, he or she shall make the order applied for, and the property shall then be sold at public auction, as specified in the order. The proceeds, deducting the expenses of salvage, storage, and sale as settled and allowed by the judge, shall be transmitted to the Treasurer for deposit in the General Fund.

(Amended by Stats. 1997, Ch. 930, Sec. 1. Effective January 1, 1998.)

514.
  

If, within 90 days after wrecked property is found, any person claims the property, or its proceeds, and establishes his or her claim by evidence satisfactory to the judge of the superior court, the judge shall make an order directing the officer in whose possession the property or its proceeds may be, to deliver it to the claimant, upon the payment of a reasonable salvage and the necessary expenses of preservation.

(Amended by Stats. 1997, Ch. 930, Sec. 2. Effective January 1, 1998.)

515.
  

Before making the order, the judge shall require from the claimant a bond to the people to be approved by the judge and filed with the clerk of the court, in a penalty double the value of the property or proceeds. The bond shall be conditioned upon the payment of all damages that may be recovered against the claimant or the claimant’s representatives, within three years after its date, by any person establishing title to the property or proceeds.

(Amended by Stats. 2002, Ch. 784, Sec. 511. Effective January 1, 2003.)

516.
  

If the bond becomes forfeited, the judge of the superior court, upon the application, supported by proof of the person entitled to its benefit shall make an order for its prosecution for such person’s benefit, and at his risk and expense.

(Enacted by Stats. 1937, Ch. 368.)

517.
  

The rejection by the judge of any claim shall not preclude the claimant from maintaining an action against the officer for the recovery of the property or its proceeds. If the plaintiff prevails, there shall be deducted from the damages, in addition to salvage and expenses, all the defendant’s costs.

(Enacted by Stats. 1937, Ch. 368.)

518.
  

If, within 60 days after saving wrecked property, no claimant of the property appears, or, if within 60 days after a claim, the salvage and expenses are not paid, or a suit for the recovery of the property is not commenced, the officer who has custody of the property may sell it at public auction and transmit the proceeds of the sale, after deducting salvage, storage, property tax liens, other liens, and other expenses, to the Treasurer for deposit in the General Fund. Deduction of salvage, storage, and other expenses shall not be made, unless the amount has been determined by the superior court of the county. A copy of the order, and the evidence in its support, shall be transmitted by the judge to the Controller.

(Amended by Stats. 2005, Ch. 311, Sec. 1. Effective January 1, 2006.)

519.
  

Public notice of every sale of wrecked property under the provisions of this article shall be published by the officer making the sale for at least two weeks in succession in one or more newspapers printed in the county, or if none is printed in the county, then by written or printed notices posted in three of the most public places in the county at least fifteen days previous to the sale. Every notice shall state the time and place of the sale and contain a particular description of the property to be sold.

(Enacted by Stats. 1937, Ch. 368.)

520.
  

Every sheriff into whose possession any wrecked property comes, shall forthwith cause to be published for at least two weeks in succession, in one or more of the newspapers printed in this State, a notice directed to all persons interested. The notice shall contain a minute description of the property, and of every bale, box, case, piece, or parcel, and the marks, brands, letters, and figures on each. It shall state:

(a) Where the property then is and its actual condition.

(b) The name, if known, of the vessel from which it came.

(c) The names of its master and super-cargo.

(d) The place where the vessel then is, and its actual condition.

(Enacted by Stats. 1937, Ch. 368.)

521.
  

The expense of publishing notices under the provisions of this article is a charge upon the property or proceeds to which it relates.

(Enacted by Stats. 1937, Ch. 368.)

522.
  

(a) Any hulk, derelict, wreck, or parts of any ship, vessel, or other watercraft sunk, beached, or allowed to remain in an unseaworthy or dilapidated condition upon publicly owned submerged lands, salt marsh, or tidelands within the corporate limits of any municipal corporation or other public corporation or entity having jurisdiction or control over those lands, without its consent expressed by resolution of its legislative body, for a period longer than 30 days without a watchman or other person being maintained upon or near and in charge of the property, is abandoned property.

Thereafter, that municipal corporation or other public corporation or entity may, notwithstanding any other provision of law, take title to the abandoned property for purposes of abatement without satisfying any property tax lien on that property, and also may cause the property to be sold, destroyed, or otherwise disposed of in any manner it determines is expedient or convenient. Any property tax lien on the abandoned property shall be satisfied within 30 days following the sale of the abandoned property by a municipal corporation or public entity. Any sale in accordance with this section shall vest complete title in the purchaser who shall forthwith take steps to remove the property. Any proceeds derived from the sale shall be transmitted to the Treasurer for deposit in the General Fund.

(b) However, if the owner of the property securely affixes to the property a notice in plain view setting forth the owner’s name and address and claim of ownership, together with the name and address of an agent or representative whom the owner may designate to act within the State of California if the owner does not reside in the state, and files a copy of the notice with the secretary of the municipal corporation or other public corporation or entity having jurisdiction or control over the lands at least 10 days prior to the removal, the municipal corporation or other public corporation or entity may not sell, destroy, or otherwise dispose of the property until the corporation or entity has first given the owner or the owner’s agent, at the address specified in the claim of ownership, 15 days’ notice to remove or cause the property to be removed, and then only if the property is not removed by the owner or the owner’s agent within that time or reasonable extensions of time as the corporation or entity may grant by resolution. If a registration number appears on the watercraft, the municipal corporation or other public corporation or entity shall send the notice to the last registered owner and the disposition shall be handled as a lien sale under Section 504.

(c) Any municipal corporation or other public corporation may charge a fee to any person who is determined by that municipal or other public corporation to have caused property of a type described in subdivision (a) to become abandoned as described in that subdivision within its corporate limits, in an amount not to exceed the amount of that municipal or other public corporation’s actual and reasonable costs incurred pursuant to this section with respect to the abandoned property.

(Amended by Stats. 1997, Ch. 930, Sec. 4. Effective January 1, 1998.)

523.
  

(a) Any peace officer, as described in Section 663, or any lifeguard or marine safety officer employed by a county, city, or district while engaged in the performance of official duties, may remove, and, if necessary, store a vessel removed from a public waterway under any of the following circumstances:

(1) When the vessel is left unattended and is moored, docked, beached, or made fast to land in a position that obstructs the normal movement of traffic or in a condition that creates a hazard to other vessels using the waterway, to public safety, or to the property of another.

(2) When the vessel is found upon a waterway and a report has previously been made that the vessel has been stolen or a complaint has been filed and a warrant thereon issued charging that the vessel has been embezzled.

(3) When the person or persons in charge of the vessel are by reason of physical injuries or illness incapacitated to an extent as to be unable to provide for its custody or removal.

(4) When an officer arrests any person operating or in control of the vessel for an alleged offense, and the officer is, by any provision of this code or other statute, required or permitted to take, and does take, the person arrested before a magistrate without unnecessary delay.

(5) When the vessel interferes with, or otherwise poses a danger to, navigation or to the public health, safety, or welfare.

(6) When the vessel poses a threat to adjacent wetlands, levies, sensitive habitat, any protected wildlife species, or water quality.

(7) When a vessel is found or operated upon a waterway with a registration expiration date in excess of one year before the date on which it is found or operated on the waterway.

(b) Costs incurred by a public entity pursuant to removal of vessels under subdivision (a) may be recovered through appropriate action in the courts of this state.

(Amended by Stats. 2011, Ch. 595, Sec. 1. Effective January 1, 2012.)

524.
  

(a) Any peace officer, as described in Section 663, may store any vessel removed from private property when the vessel is found on, or attached to, private property and a report has previously been made that the vessel has been stolen or a complaint has been filed and a warrant thereon issued charging that the vessel has been embezzled.

(b) Any peace officer, as described in Section 663, may, after a reasonable period of time, remove a vessel from private property if the vessel has been involved in, and left at, the scene of a boating accident and no owner is available to grant permission to remove the vessel. This subdivision does not authorize the removal of a vessel if the owner has been contacted and has refused to grant permission to remove the vessel.

(c) Nothing in this section is intended to expand the territorial jurisdiction of peace officers beyond the provisions of Sections 830.1 and 830.2 of the Penal Code.

(Amended by Stats. 1997, Ch. 930, Sec. 6. Effective January 1, 1998.)

525.
  

(a) Except for the urgent and immediate concern for the safety of those aboard a vessel, a person shall not abandon a vessel upon a public waterway or public or private property without the express or implied consent of the owner or person in lawful possession or control of the property.

(b) The abandonment of a vessel in a manner as provided in subdivision (a) is prima facie evidence that the last registered owner of record, not having notified the appropriate registration or documenting agency of any relinquishment of title or interest therein, is responsible for the abandonment and is thereby liable for the cost of the removal and disposition of the vessel.

(c) A violation of this section is an infraction and shall be punished by a fine of not less than one thousand dollars ($1,000), nor more than three thousand dollars ($3,000). In addition, the court may order the defendant to pay to the agency that removes and disposes of the vessel the actual costs incurred by the agency for that removal and disposition.

(d) Fines imposed and collected pursuant to this section shall be allocated as follows:

(1) (A) Eighty percent of the moneys shall be deposited in the Abandoned Watercraft Abatement Fund, which is hereby created as a special fund. Moneys in the fund shall be used exclusively, upon appropriation by the Legislature, for grants to be awarded by the department to local agencies for the abatement, removal, storage, and disposal as public nuisances of any abandoned property as described in Section 522 or for the disposal of surrendered vessels as defined in Section 526.1, wrecked or dismantled vessels, or parts thereof, or any other partially submerged objects that pose a substantial hazard to navigation, from navigable waterways or adjacent public property, or private property with the landowner’s consent. These grants shall not be utilized for abatement, removal, storage, or disposal of commercial vessels.

(B) In evaluating a grant request submitted by a local agency pursuant to subparagraph (A), the department shall place great weight on the following two factors:

(i) The existence of an active local enforcement program to control and prevent the abandonment of watercraft within the local agency’s jurisdiction.

(ii) The existence of a submerged navigational hazard abatement plan at the local level that provides for the control or abatement of water hazards, including, but not limited to, abandoned watercraft, wrecked watercraft, hazardous floating debris, submerged vessels and objects, and abandoned piers and pilings.

(C) A grant awarded by the department pursuant to subparagraph (A) shall be matched by a 10-percent contribution from the local agency receiving the grant.

(D) As a condition of receiving grant funding pursuant to this paragraph, a local agency shall report to the department data, as deemed appropriate by the department, regarding abandoned and surrendered vessels removed or anticipated for removal pursuant to this article.

(2) Twenty percent shall be allocated as set forth in Section 1463.001 of the Penal Code.

(e) The state shall not assume liability for any injuries or damages to a person or entity, public or private, connected to or resulting from the processing or disposal of a surrendered vessel, as defined in Section 526.1.

(f) The department may adopt rules and regulations for the purpose of administering this section.

(Amended (as amended by Stats. 2009, Ch. 416, Sec. 1) by Stats. 2013, Ch. 204, Sec. 1. Effective January 1, 2014.)

525.5.
  

(a) On or before January 1, 2005, the department shall submit recommendations to the Legislature on strategies to prevent recreational vessels from being abandoned and to facilitate the ability of owners to turn in their recreational vessels to public agencies for disposal in lieu of abandonment.

(b) The recommendations shall be based on the expertise and data available to the department in relation to the existing abandoned watercraft abatement program administered by the department.

(c) The recommendations shall consider all of the following:

(1) The needs and desires of the recreational boating community in being able to properly and economically dispose of recreational vessels in lieu of abandoning them.

(2) Any environmental, economic, safety, or practical problems that need to be addressed before initiating a program to allow recreational vessels to be turned in to a public agency in lieu of abandonment, and the associated benefits of that program or any program that can prevent recreational vessels from being abandoned.

(3) An estimate of the number of vessels that may be turned in to local agencies in lieu of abandonment.

(d) (1) The director shall appoint an Abandoned Vessel Advisory Committee to assist the department in preparing recommendations.

(2) The membership of the committee shall include, but need not be limited to, representatives of all of the following:

(A) Boating law enforcement agencies.

(B) Entities that engage in the salvage or disposal of recreational vessels.

(C) Boat dealers.

(D) Boating, sailing, and yachting organizations.

(E) Owners and operators of public and private marina facilities.

(3) The members of the committee shall serve without compensation and may not be reimbursed by the state for expenses.

(4) The department shall assist the committee in carrying out its duties.

(Added by Stats. 2003, Ch. 357, Sec. 1. Effective January 1, 2004.)

526.
  

(a) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, any wrecked property that is an unseaworthy derelict or hulk, abandoned property as described in Section 522, or property removed from a navigable waterway pursuant to Section 523 or 524 that is an unseaworthy derelict or hulk, may be sold or otherwise disposed of by the public agency that removed or caused the removal of the property pursuant to this section, subject to the following conditions, except a surrendered vessel, as defined in Section 526.1, may be disposed of immediately upon acceptance by a public agency and is not subject to the following conditions:

(1) The property has been appraised by disinterested persons, and has an estimated value of less than two thousand dollars ($2,000).

(2) There is no discernable registration, license, hull identification number, or other identifying insignia on the property, or the Department of Motor Vehicles is unable to produce any record of the registered or legal owners or lienholders.

(3) Not less than 72 hours before the property was removed, the peace officer or authorized public employee securely attached to the property a distinctive notice stating that the property would be removed by the public agency.

(4) Within 48 hours after the removal, excluding weekends and holidays, the public agency that removed or caused the removal of the property sent notice of the removal to the registered and legal owners, if known or discovered subsequent to the removal, at their addresses of record with the Department of Motor Vehicles, and to any other person known to have an interest in the property. A notice sent by the public agency shall be sent by certified or first-class mail.

(5) If the public agency is unable to locate the registered and legal owners of the property or persons known to have an interest in the property as provided in paragraph (4), the public agency published, or caused to be published, the notice of removal for at least two weeks in succession in one or more daily newspapers circulated in the county.

(b) The notice of removal required by paragraphs (3) to (5), inclusive, of subdivision (a) shall state all of the following:

(1) The name, address, and telephone number of the public agency providing the notice.

(2) A description of the property removed.

(3) The location from which the property is to be or was removed.

(4) The location of the intended or actual place of storage.

(5) The authority and purpose for removal of the property.

(6) A statement that the property may be claimed and recovered within 15 days of the date the notice of removal was issued pursuant to paragraph (4) or (5) of subdivision (a), whichever is later, after payment of any costs incurred by the public agency related to salvage and storage of the property, and that following the expiration of the 15-day period, the property will be sold or otherwise disposed of by the public agency.

(7) A statement that the registered or legal owners or any other person known to have an interest in the property has the opportunity for a poststorage hearing before the public agency that removed, or caused the removal of, the property to determine the validity of the removal and storage if a request for a hearing is made in person or in writing to that public agency within 10 days from the date of notice; that if the registered or legal owners or any other person known to have an interest in the property disagree with the decision of the public agency, the decision may be reviewed pursuant to Section 11523 of the Government Code; and that during the time of the initial hearing, or during the time the decision is being reviewed pursuant to Section 11523 of the Government Code, the vessel in question shall not be sold or otherwise disposed of.

(c) (1) Any requested hearing shall be conducted within 48 hours of the time the request for a hearing is received by the public agency, excluding weekends and holidays. The public agency that removed the vehicle may authorize its own officers or employees to conduct the hearing, but the hearing officer shall not be the same person who directed the removal and storage of the property.

(2) The failure of either the registered or legal owners or any other person known to have an interest in the property to request or attend a scheduled hearing shall not affect the validity of the hearing.

(d) The property may be claimed and recovered by its registered and legal owners, or by any other person known to have an interest in the property, within 15 days of the date the notice of removal was issued pursuant to paragraph (4) or (5) of subdivision (a), whichever is later, after payment of any costs incurred by the public agency related to salvage and storage of the property.

(e) The property may be sold or otherwise disposed of by the public agency not less than 15 days from the date the notice of removal was issued pursuant to paragraph (4) or (5) of subdivision (a), whichever is later, or the date of actual removal, whichever is later.

(f) The proceeds from the sale of the property, after deducting expenses for salvage, storage, sales costs, and any property tax liens, shall be deposited in the Abandoned Watercraft Abatement Fund for grants to local agencies, as specified in paragraph (1) of subdivision (d) of Section 525.

(g) It is the intent of the Legislature that this section shall not be construed to authorize the lien sale or destruction of any seaworthy vessel, other than a surrendered vessel as defined in Section 526.1, that is currently registered and operated in accordance with local, state, and federal law.

(Amended (as amended by Stats. 2009, Ch. 416, Sec. 3) by Stats. 2013, Ch. 204, Sec. 3. Effective January 1, 2014.)

526.1.
  

For purposes of this article, “surrendered vessel” means a recreational vessel that the verified titleholder has willingly surrendered to a willing public agency under both of the following conditions:

(a) The public agency has determined, in its sole discretion, that the vessel is in danger of being abandoned, and therefore has a likelihood of causing environmental degradation or becoming a hazard to navigation.

(b) The decision to accept a vessel is based solely on the potential of the vessel to likely be abandoned and cause environmental degradation or become a hazard to navigation.

(Amended by Stats. 2013, Ch. 204, Sec. 5. Effective January 1, 2014.)

527.
  

It is the intent of the Legislature that a sum of not more than one million dollars ($1,000,000) be appropriated from the Harbors and Watercraft Revolving Fund to the Abandoned Watercraft Abatement Fund for grants to local agencies pursuant to paragraph (1) of subdivision (d) of Section 525 in each fiscal year and that grants from the Abandoned Watercraft Abatement Fund be matched by not less than a 10-percent contribution from the local agency receiving the grant.

(Added by Stats. 1997, Ch. 930, Sec. 9. Effective January 1, 1998.)

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