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Jan 04

“Inoperable Vehicles” Explained

Posted on January 4, 2019 at 3:58 PM by Michael Churchill

“My car runs perfectly fine, so why did I get a ticket for inoperable vehicle”? 

This question comes up frequently because about 50 Rifle residents a year are ticketed for this charge pursuant to Rifle Municipal Code 8-2-10. According to the Code, the definition of “inoperable vehicle” is …”junked, wrecked, wholly or partially dismantled, discarded, abandoned or unable to perform the functions or purpose for which it was originally constructed.” Which makes sense. If your car is up on blocks, it clearly can’t be driven. This is fine if the car is on your own property under most circumstances, but a problem if it’s on public property. 

Rifle hardly has a blight of junked cars cluttering up the streets so what accounts for these tickets? Believe it or not, most are for absent, expired or improper license plates. Rifle Municipal Code considers the absence of valid license plates a condition which renders the vehicle “inoperable” because it can’t be LEGALLY operated on public roads. 

So why not a ticket for expired license plates? That is a possibility, but only if the ticket is written under state law. A City of Rifle Police Officer has the authority to write tickets under city code or state law. The choice is up to them. In this particular instance, a ticket for first offense Inoperable Vehicle written into Municipal Court under city code results in a fine of a mere $25.  Subsequent offenses can result in increased penalties. Rifle officers and code enforcement also have the ability to issue warnings or “fix-it” tickets. A charge of Expired Plates needs to be written into County Court and carries heftier fines and costs. For this reason, barring another offense, the officer will often choose the “lesser” ticket.

Another charge that often causes confusion is “abandoned vehicle”. A vehicle is considered abandoned if it’s left on public property for more than 72 hours. Yep, this technically applies to a car left parked in the same place in the street for three days without moving. If your neighbor has an ugly car that they always park in the same place, it is not an abandoned vehicle unless they never move it. Again, it’s a $25 fine for a first offense. This is a much smaller issue here in town. 

Rifle Community Service Officers are an excellent source of information on these topics. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact dispatch at 970-625-8095 and ask to speak to one. Public information and education is their goal and they will be happy to assist you. 

Rifle Rapport is a periodic column featuring the people and projects of the City of Rifle. If you have suggestions for future articles, please contact Kathy Pototsky at 970-665-6420 or


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