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Operating a Chop Shop Laws (VC 10801,VC 10802,VC 10803) in California- IE-Criminal Defense

VC 10801(a): Operating a Chop Shop Laws

Legal Definition:

VC 10801Any person who knowingly and intentionally owns or operates a building where vehicles are altered, destroyed or reassembles, to misrepresent, or prevent the identification of, any vehicle or vehicle part, is guilty of the crime of owning or operating a chop shop.

VC 10802Any person who knowingly alters, counterfeits, defaces, destroys, disguises, falsifies, forges, obliterates, or removes vehicle identification numbers, with the intent to misrepresent the identity or prevent the identification of motor vehicles or motor vehicle parts, for the purpose of sale, transfer, import, or export, is guilty of a public offense.

VC 10803(a): Any person who buys with the intent to resell, disposes of, sells, or transfers, more than one motor vehicle or parts from more than one motor vehicle, with the knowledge that the vehicle identification numbers of the motor vehicles or motor vehicle parts have been altered, counterfeited, defaced, destroyed, disguised, falsified, forged, obliterated, or removed for the purpose of misrepresenting the identity or preventing the identification of the motor vehicles or motor vehicle parts, is guilty of a public offense.

For a person to be convicted of a violation of VC 10801, the prosecution must show that:

1. You knew that you intentionally owned/operated a chop shop;

2. You knew that the vehicle or part was obtained in order to either:

a. Sell or dispose of the vehicle or part;

OR

b. Alter, counterfeit, deface, destroy, disguise, falsify, forge, obliterate, or remove the identity, including an identification number, of the vehicle or part, in order to misrepresent its identity or prevent its identification.

What does this mean?

A chop shop is a building, lot, or other places where:

1. A person alters, destroys, takes apart, reassembles, or stores a motor vehicle or motor vehicle part;

AND

2. That person knows that the vehicle or part has been obtained by theft, fraud, or conspiracy to defraud.

A chop shop also does not need to be a giant body shop, or mechanic shop, or a shop that is located at or near a junkyard. In other words, it need not be an actual, big business. Someone can operate a Chop Shop outside of their own home in their garage, so long as the above elements are met. The purpose of VC 10801 is essential to target the people who own and run the Chop Shop, in essence, the boss or overseer of the work done. The code section of VC 10802 and VC 10803(a) are intended to punish the people who know they are working for a Chop Shop but continue to perform that work, though they do not own the business or operation. VC 10802 is intended to punish the people who are actually removing the VINs as well as other identifying information from vehicles (the workers). VC 10803 is intended to punish the people who buy the vehicles or parts they know are from an illegal Chop Shop (the purchasers).

Penalties

  1. VC 10801 (Operating a Chop Shop): This section is a wobbler offense, meaning you can be charged under this section as a misdemeanor offense or as a felony offense. Whether you are charged under this section as a felony or as a misdemeanor depends entirely on the specific facts of your case. However, most commonly, this section is charged initially at least, as a Felony. If you are to be found guilty of this charge as a misdemeanor offense, you could be sentenced up to one year in County Jail. If you are to be found guilty of these charges as a felony offense, you could be sentenced up to two, three, or four years in a State Prison. You would be required to serve 50% of your custody time in Jail or State Prison.
  2. VC 10802 (Tampering with the VIN): This section is a wobbler offense, meaning you can be charged under this section as a misdemeanor offense or as a felony offense. Whether you are charged under this section as a felony or as a misdemeanor depends entirely on the specific facts of your case. If you are to be found guilty of this charge as a misdemeanor offense, you could be sentenced up to one year in County Jail. If you are to be found guilty of these charges as a felony offense, you could be sentenced up to 16 months, two or three years in a State Prison. You would be required to serve 50% of your custody time in Jail or State Prison.
  3. VC 10803(a) (Buying multiple tampered Vehicles): This section is a wobbler offense, meaning you can be charged under this section as a misdemeanor offense or as a felony offense. Whether you are charged under this section as a felony or as a misdemeanor depends entirely on the specific facts of your case. If you are to be found guilty of this charge as a misdemeanor offense, you could be sentenced up to one year in County Jail. If you are to be found guilty of these charges as a felony offense, you could be sentenced up to 16 months, two or three years in a State Prison. You would be required to serve 50% of your custody time in Jail or State Prison.

Violations of VC 10801VC 10802 and VC 10803(a) do not strike offenses under the Three Strikes Law, and it is also not a charge requiring Sex Registration under PC 290. If you are convicted under any of the sections of VC 10801/VC 10802/VC 10803(a) though, you would likely face a loss, suspension, or revocation of your professional license. You could also face immigration consequences if you are a non-US Citizen living in the United States since this is a crime of theft or deceit.

Common Defenses

  1. Statute of Limitations
  2. Insufficient Evidence
  3. Violation of Rights

One of the most common defenses used under this section involves their being insufficient evidence to prove you guilty of the crimes charged. In the above three Vehicle Code sections, there is a requirement of intent as well as knowledge. For example, if you purchase a vehicle from a person you met on Craigslist, and they had a stolen vehicle, with an altered VIN number, as well as stolen parts within that vehicle, you could not be found guilty of this charge. However, if you knew you were getting a sweet deal on this vehicle because parts within the vehicle were stolen, then it would be sufficient evidence to show that you knew the vehicle and items had been altered and stolen.

Similar to a person who works for a Shop, not knowing the items they are installing on a vehicle are in fact stolen. Some of these can be explained if you were never told the work you were doing on the vehicle was illegal, meaning that you did not know you were working on a stolen car or with stolen parts. However, a reasonable person standard is used herein determining your actual knowledge of whether an offense was taking place. If, for example, you were never directly told the items or vehicle was stolen, but you could tell the VIN had been altered or even deleted, then a reasonable person, with some working mechanic knowledge, would know that more likely than not, they are working on a stolen vehicle or with stolen parts. This would be based on a totality of the circumstances argument in your defense and based on the facts of your case.

Finally, police likely would be needing to enter into a garage, or building, in order to search for a Chop Shop business. If they decided to act without a warrant, based on some barely passable informant information, then it could be possible that when police storm your Chop Shop, that they did not legally obtain the evidence of a crime. If that were the case, your case could be thrown out, and the evidence of the Chop Shop could be suppressed, under a valid PC 1538.5 motion, based on the illegal search.

Call Today

Being implicated in a Chop Shop operation can profoundly affect your future, with the potential for significant loss of income and freedom. Facing charges under VC 10801, often filed as a felony, raises the very real risk of state prison time, regardless of whether you have a prior criminal history. The gravity of these charges cannot be overstated and demands a serious and informed legal response.

Our VC 10801 Ontario attorney at Inland Empire Criminal Defense has a robust track record of successfully defending individuals accused under VC 10801, which pertains to operating or working in a Chop Shop. We understand the complexities of these cases and are dedicated to providing a vigorous defense for you or your loved one.

Do not leave such a critical matter to chance. We offer a free initial consultation and are available 24/7 to answer your questions and address your concerns. Contact Inland Empire Criminal Defense today at 909-281-0391 for expert legal representation. Our office is conveniently located in Ontario, CA, ensuring accessible and responsive legal assistance when you need it most.

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