Article 1. Wrecks And Wrecked Property of California Harbors And Navigation Code >> Division 3. >> Chapter 3. >> Article 1.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The expense of publishing notices under the provisions of this
article is a charge upon the property or proceeds to which it
(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.
(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
(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
(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.
(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
(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.
(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
(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
(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
(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.
(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
(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
(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
(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
(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
(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.
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
(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
(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.
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