It is unlawful to intentionally destroy, deface, or alter your vehicle number without written authorization from the department of motor Vehicles in Los Angeles. The law about the VIN is outlined under VC 10750. Violation of the statute attracts severe consequences, especially when the crime is related to a violation of VC 10803 or VC 10802. In addition to the penalties, the offense disrupts your professional and personal life.

However, when law enforcement officers believe you alter the VIN to prevent misidentification with the intent to transfer ownership, export, or sell the vehicle. When you do so, you face either a misdemeanor or a felony charge. Therefore when the police arrest you over the VIN crime, you want to seek legal help immediately. An aggressive criminal defense attorney can help you skip the sentences.

A well-skilled and experienced attorney is recommended for your case's success. At Los Angeles Criminal Attorney, we can help you build a solid defense to fight criminal charges. If the charges are not already filed, we can assign a prosecutor or investigator to evaluate whether the police have enough evidence to file the charges so that we can minimize the risk to finances, freedom, and reputations.

How Vehicle Identification Numbers Work in California

A vehicle identification number is the motor number, serial number, marks, numbers, or other information used to identify a motor vehicle. These details refer to auto registration. Every car in California has a unique vehicle identification number. Often these numbers appear on the department of motor vehicle paperwork and the metal board fixed to the car dashboard on the verge of the car.

As the vehicle owner, you must have a copy of the VIN in at least seven locations. Several locations are easily accessible, while others locations are hidden from view. Law enforcement officers use hidden places to identify the vehicle when the owner has altered or removed the VIN. The locations where you can find copies of the VIN include the vehicle frame, body, and engine.

Intentionally Removing or Altering a VIN in California

One of the main elements the prosecutor must prove is your intent to commit the crime. It is against the law to intentionally alter or change your VIN. Before you face conviction, the prosecution team proves the following:

  • You intentionally deface, alter or destroy a VIN.
  • You placed or stamped a VIN form on a vehicle not assigned by the Department of Motor Vehicles.

Altering a VIN to cause Misidentification

You commit a severe crime when you alter or remove your VIN with the aim of misidentification. Any destruction, removal, falsification, forging, altering, or defacing of a VIN can attract severe charges. Note the reason why you engaged in the act of changing or removing the VIN matters. You only face charges when you have the intent to prevent or misrepresent the identification of the vehicle, and the aim of the alteration was for:

  • The exportation or importation of the car.
  • The sale of the vehicle.

The vehicle's transfer, export, import, or sale does not necessarily need to be completed. Remember, attempting or altering your vehicle's identification mark is a crime. Therefore, it is wise to consult your attorney whenever you want to purchase a vehicle or auto parts with an altered VIN number. The attorney will ensure you understand the potential penalties among other consequences.

Example 1

James steals a vehicle with the intent to resell it. He removes the vehicle identification mark and replaces it with an altered number. When the law enforcement officers arrest James for Violating VC 10750, he could face a series of charges, including altering the vehicle's identification number.

Example 2

Grace is involved in a car accident. Due to the accident, the VIN of her car is completely damaged. Under this case, Grace cannot face conviction for altering a VIN because she had no intent to commit the crime.

The Potential Penalties for Altering or Destroying VIN in California

When you violate VC 10750, you face a misdemeanor charge. The possible penalties for the offense include a jail term for a maximum of 12 months. Alternatively, when you violate VC 10802, you face a wobbler charge. So the prosecutor can file either a felony or a misdemeanor charge. A misdemeanor charge attracts a jail term of at least 12 months. A felony charge attracts a jail term between two and three years.

Note, under the two convictions, the criminal court judge can dismiss your jail terms and impose a misdemeanor or summary probation. Also, the judge can inflict formal or felony probation. You serve a limited jail term when the court places you under probation. During the probationary period, the judge will impose the following restrictions:

  • Community service.
  • Not committing a new crime.
  • Regularly visiting your probation expert.
  • Not interacting with a member of a gang group.

When you violate the terms of the probation, the judge has the authority to cancel the probation. When the judge revokes the probation, they reinstate the initial sentence, meaning you will serve a jail term. Therefore, if you find the terms and conditions impossible to comply with, you want to speak with your criminal defense attorney. The attorney will help you know the options available during the probation period.

Difference Between VC 10802 and VC 10750

Both statutes apply when you remove or intentionally alter your vehicle identification number. VC 10802 shows a significant number of illegal behaviors compared to VC 10750. The primary difference between the two statutes is 'purpose.' Under VC 10802, the law requires evidence that you removed or altered a VIN to misrepresent or hide auto parts or vehicle identity so you can sell it.

The section is implemented considering chop shops. Several operators of chop shops disassemble auto parts from stolen vehicles and fix them into new cars. The experts do all this in a way that you cannot quickly identify altered VIN. Your attorney can help you distinguish the two statutes better.

Possessing or Buying a Motor Vehicle with Altered or Tampered VIN

When you buy a vehicle with a tampered VIN, you violate VC 10803. The statute focuses on preventing the chop shops' alteration or destruction of vehicle numbers. Many chop shops dismantle the stolen vehicles and sell their auto parts.

According to the law, it is unlawful to buy or possess more than two vehicles or more than two auto parts when you know the vehicle identification number is destroyed, altered, falsified, forged, or disguised to resell, sell, or transfer the vehicle's auto parts. However, you cannot face conviction for alteration of VIN when you:

  • Lawfully owned or possessed the auto parts or the car by crushing or compacting.
  • Did not remove or alter the VIN during the processing.

The Legal Penalties for Possessing or Buying a Vehicle with Altered or Tampered VIN

In California, possessing or buying more than one vehicle or auto parts with a tempered VIN intended to resell is a wobbler. So, you can either face misdemeanor or felony charges. You face a jail term of 12 months when charged with a misdemeanor charge. When accused of a felony charge, the penalty will change according to several factors.

For example, the court considers whether you obtained the automobile with the altered VIN or only controlled them. According to VC 10803(b), you own more than two vehicles with altered VINs with the aim to resale in 2 or 3 years or 16 months. So, you want to work closely with your criminal defense attorney to help you skip the charges.

Legal Defenses For Violation of VC 10750

A VC 10750 does not automatically result in a conviction. You may use several defenses to fight VC 10750 charges. Here are examples of the defense you may apply to have your charges dismissed or reduced.

You Altered or Destroyed the VIN by Accident

You face charges for VC 10750 when you intentionally deface, destroy or alter a VIN. You may use the defense to avoid conviction if the VIN was impacted accidentally. For example, John decided to replace his vehicle's dashboard as it was cracked. John has no idea how to remove the dashboard in the automobile. Therefore, he smashed it with a hammer, destroying the VIN. John will not face charges for destroying his vehicle's VIN as it occurred accidentally.

Lack of Knowledge of the VIN was Tempered With

To face conviction for the crime, you want to purchase the vehicle parts or the vehicle itself, knowing that the vehicle identification numbers have been altered. For example, assume you like classic cars and your daughter's birthday is approaching. You decide to purchase a vehicle for her as a birthday gift. You find out that a dealer in the nearby shop has a vintage car on sale, and you decide to buy it for your daughter.

Unkindly to you, the car you bought for your daughter was stolen, and the dealer hid that by stamping a new VIN. Since you did not know that the car's VIN was not authentic, you cannot face charges for Violating VC10750.

The VIN was Altered Before you Possessed the Vehicle

You face charges for VC10750 when you deface, alter or destroy the vehicle's VIN. You could not face conviction if the VIN was already changed before you purchased the automobile. Your lawyer will argue that you did not alter the VIN and cannot face conviction for VC 10803. The prosecutor will challenge your lawyer by claiming that you bought the vehicle with an altered VIN. You may face charges for purchasing a car with an altered VIN.

For example, Kim likes purchasing cheap vehicles. Kim repairs the motor vehicle and sells them. While repairing the automobile, he notices the car engine does not suit the dashboard. He sells motor vehicles. Kim is not guilty of VC, as the VIN was changed before he owned the vehicle.

You Altered the VIN under DMVs Authorization

Sometimes, the department of motor vehicles may permit you to alter a VIN. You may Alter the VIN to correct your registered name. The DMV uses your certificates to confirm your name.

Again the DMV may allow you to alter the VIN when you want to write the correct date of birth, correct gender, change photo, or change address. To proceed with the changes, you want to use your identity card and other documents as proof. If you were given proper authorization to change VIN, you should not face conviction.

Violation of Your Miranda Rights

Since the vehicle identification numbers are placed on the surface of your vehicle where anyone can see them, law enforcement officers may violate your rights by not reading your Miranda rights during your arrest. Also, the police may violate your rights when they recognize a vehicle parked in your fenced compound. Still, instead of securing an arrest warrant to enter your property, they simply enter the homestead and begin their investigations.

Insufficient Evidence

Insufficient evidence is the common type of defense used in many criminal offenses. For example, when charged for violating VC 10750, you can argue that you destroyed the VIN while working on your vehicle. You may claim that you were holding a screwdriver, and the tool fell and scratched the VIN mark changing the character. When you do so, the court will more likely drop the charges.

Other Related Crimes

The following are the crimes you may face charges for alongside altering VIN:

  1. Receiving Stolen Property

You face charges for Receiving stolen Property when you knowingly purchase, sell, withhold, conceal or receive Property that has been embezzled, stolen, or obtained through illegal means from its owner.

Possession and Control of Stolen Property

You may face charges for receiving stolen Property if you receive stolen Property physically or when you organize the transportation or delivery of stolen property. The crime includes knowingly acquiring stolen Property, purchasing them, or knowing of Stolen Property by another person. If you were aware of the stolen nature of the Property you received, you would face charges for receiving stolen Property.

Selling Stolen Property

If you made a profit from a transaction dealing with stolen Property, you would face charges for receiving stolen Property. To face the charges, It is not necessary to come into contact with the stolen items. When you were involved in any way with the selling of the Property, you will face charges.

Concealing Stolen Property

When you conceal or withhold the knowledge of stolen property, you may face charges for receiving stolen property. You commit the crime when someone asks you to hide stolen property, and you agree willingly. Any involvement in hiding the stolen property, no matter how minimal, leads to receiving stolen property.

Elements of the Crime

The prosecutor wants to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you had the knowledge that the property you received was stolen or acquired through unlawful means. The prosecution wants to prove you knew the nature of the property before receiving, selling, or purchasing the property.

Continuation of Criminal Intent

The prosecutor wants to prove you tried to deprive the property owner. By receiving stolen property, you must have intended to possess or maintain control of the property.

Penalties for Violating PC 496

Violating pc 496 can lead to severe punishment. The minimum penalty for receiving stolen property is a maximum of one year in county jail. The penalties vary depending on the nature of the crime. The value of the stolen item also determines the charges you face. You may either face charges for a misdemeanor or a felony.

You face misdemeanor charges when the value of the stolen property is below $ 950. The penalties for a misdemeanor conviction are a maximum of one year in county jail. You face felony charges when the stolen property's value exceeds $950. The punishment for the crime includes sixteen months, two years, or three years of service in state prison.

Legal Defenses

To fight the charges of violating pc 496, you want to devise various legal reasons. The defenses will help in lesser charges or dismissal of the charges. The defenses you may apply include lack of knowledge of the stolen item, innocent intent, and no proof that the property is stolen.

  1. Vehicle Registration Fraud

California VC 4463 prohibits fraud or forgery related to vehicle registration certificates, license plates, tags, smog test certificates, or stickers.

Elements of the Crime

The prosecution wants to prove you were involved in any of the following types of behavior:

  • Altering or counterfeiting vehicle registration certificates, including registration certificates and license plates.
  • Displaying forged or counterfeit vehicle registration materials
  • Attempting to pass any altered or false vehicle registration materials.

Penalties for violating VC 4463

Forging or falsifying vehicle registration information may seem minor, but it is a severe crime. Prosecutors may charge the offense as either a misdemeanor charge or a felony charge, depending on the nature of your case. When convicted of a misdemeanor charge, you serve up to one year in county jail.

When convicted of a VC 4463 felony, you serve 16 months to years in prison. The judge may also issue probation sentences. Again, you may lose your driver's license. The DMV believes you submitted fraudulent information in any application to them. The DMV will decide whether to revoke or suspend your license.

Legal Defenses

There are various defense strategies for VC 4463 auto registration fraud. The legal defense you may use to beat the charges for auto registration fraud includes lack of intent to defraud, insufficient evidence, unlawful seizure, and insufficient evidence.

  1. Operating a Chop Shop

 In California, a chop shop refers to a place, usually a garage, where stolen cars are taken apart so that the parts are sold separately. Under VC 10801, knowingly operating a chop shop is a crime. Operating a chop shop includes:

  • Owning a chop shop.
  • Working on the cars there.
  • Buying or selling altered car parts

Therefore operating a chop shop does not mean you have to own the shop. You would face conviction if you were actively involved in the unlawful operation of the shop.

 Elements of The Crime

To be convicted of operating a chop shop, the prosecutor wants to prove the following elements of the crime:

  • You knowingly and intentionally operated a chop shop
  • You knew you fraudulently obtained the vehicle parts
  • You knew the owner of the shop, or you received the vehicle parts to dispose of or sell vehicle parts
  • You knew the vehicle parts were altered, disguised, or removed to prevent identification

Penalties for Violating PC 10801

You may face charges for a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the facts of your case. Your case's facts include the following:

  • The number of vehicles involved.
  • The level of a chop shop.
  • The value of the damages.
  • Your criminal history.

When convicted of a misdemeanor, you serve up to one year in county jail and on summary probation. Felony conviction involves service in county jail for up to four years and formal probation. The probation terms include the following:

  • Community service hours.
  • Victim restitution.
  • Meeting with a probation officer.
  • Searching your property without a warrant.

Any violation of probation will increase your service in jail.

Fighting VC 10801

When charged with owning or operating a chop shop, you may use various defense strategies to obtain a favorable outcome. The legal defenses include lack of knowledge of the shop operation, lack of intent to alter the vehicle parts, and you did not own or operate the chop shop.

Contact a Criminal Attorney Near Me

Do you face charges for altering or removing your VIN in Los Angeles? If so, you want to seek legal help. Changing or possessing a vehicle with a removed or tampered VIN is a severe crime. You face lengthy jail terms, among other penalties. You want to speak with an attorney as soon as possible.

At Los Angeles Criminal Attorney, our attorneys have deep experience handling criminal matters. Our competent attorneys have defended numerous clients facing VIN offenses. So, we are here to help you. We are determined to offer you the priority and help you overcome difficult circumstances. Contact us today at 424-333-0943, and we will help you find the best available options.