You see, in California (and many other states), the license plate is sold with the car. So, say you sell your car to someone, then that someone doesn't go to the DMV to update ownership paperwork*, then they get a ticket. That ticket will be mailed to you. (*Both buyer and seller have to fill out the paperwork, so if only you do it and the new buyer doesn't, it's a problem.)
Unfortunately this happened to me. The new owner got ticket after ticket on my previous car. The trail of traffic tickets tells the tale of my car's fate:
Date, type, cost:
05/02/2013, RESIDENTIAL, $180.00
05/23/2013, TOWAWAY ZONE, $191.00
06/19/2013, DRIVEWAY, $206.00
06/19/2013, NO PLATES, $222.00
08/20/2013, ON SIDEWALK, $110.00
Ticket after ticket, then someone pulled the plates, then finally left it on a sidewalk? Or just gave up on following any and all rules once the plates were off? Since there have been no tickets since August, I guess it's been abandoned. That makes me really sad, since when I had it last, it still ran fine and had no problems. I wish I had gone through the effort to donate it instead.
I'm annoyed and worried that I haven't heard back since May on my written protest/proof of sale. I know DMV-type things move slowly, but five months? I worry I'll get stopped for something and the cop will have access to that whole history and I'll get arrested for outstanding tickets. I'm also worried about it going to collections and ruining my credit.
If I had only known this could happen, I would have kept my custom plates for my new car, then they wouldn't have been sold with the old...