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I. VC 10501: False Report of Auto Theft in California

Legal Definition:

(a) It is unlawful for any person to make or file a false or fraudulent report of the theft of a vehicle required to be registered under this code with any law enforcement agency with the intent to deceive.

(b) If a person has been previously convicted of a violation of subdivision (a), he or she is punishable by imprisonment pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170 of the Penal Code for 16 months, or two or three years, or in a county jail for not to exceed one year.

For a person to be convicted of a violation of VC 10501, the prosecution must show that:

  1. You filed a false or fraudulent claim with any law enforcement agency;
  2. The report was of a vehicle being stolen from you;


  1. You made this report with the intent to deceive.

II. What does this mean?

In order for you to intend to deceive means that you made statements that were purposely false, or that the statements failed to disclose certain facts in order to trick or defraud someone. This false statement need not be in writing, an oral false statement will still make you liable, if you had the intent to deceive.

An example of this would if you are late in your car payments, and the car company intends to repossess your vehicle. To avoid repossession, you report it as being stolen to the police. This would make you guilty of this section since you intentionally deceived in order to avoid the car being repossessed. Another example would be for you to claim your car was stolen, in order to assist in committing insurance fraud. In other words, you claim your car was stolen, to receive insurance money, when the car was never taken from you in the first place.

This is an intentional crime, so if your car was towed, and you didn’t know that it was towed, and claimed it was stolen, then you couldn’t be found guilty of this charge.

III. Penalties

A violation of VC 10501 is a misdemeanor offense. Whether you are charged with this as a misdemeanor or as a felony charge, depends on whether or not this is your first offense. If this is your first offense, it is a misdemeanor charge. If convicted of this charge as a misdemeanor, you could be sentenced up to six months in County Jail. You would be required to serve at least 50% of that time in custody. You could also be fined up to $1,000 for a conviction under this section.

However, if this is not your first offense under this section, it can become a felony. If you are convicted of this charge as a felony, you could be sentenced to upwards of 16 months, 2 or 3 years in County Jail. You would be required to serve at least 50% of that time in custody.

This is not a strike offense under California’s Three Strikes Law. It is also not a Sex Offense requiring Sex Registration under PC 290. This is a crime of moral turpitude, so it would directly impact your status in Immigration Court or if you have a Professional License.

IV. Common Defenses

  1. Statute of Limitations
  2. Insufficient Evidence
  3. Violation of Rights
  4. False Accusations

If you never intended to deceive, you are not guilty of the charge. This can happen if you file the report with the police of your car being stolen, but did so under a good faith belief that your car was actually stolen. Think of an example where a roommate or a spouse takes your car and don’t tell you. It could happen where you think the vehicle must have been stolen. You in this situation are not intending to deceive, because you thought the car was actually stolen. If that is shown, you can prove there is insufficient evidence to prove you guilty of the charge.

False accusations are not technically considered a “defense” in criminal law. In essence, the defense of false accusations comes from a person who falsely blames you for a crime you did not commit. Here, you could claim your car is stolen, and a person, out of anger or vengeance, tells police that you defrauded them and that your car was not ever stolen. Your criminal defense attorney can then argue that the person is falsely accusing you of a crime, usually found out through some motive (an angry neighbor, or ex, etc), and that can lead to a full dismissal of your case.

V. Call Today

A criminal conviction can be devastating to a person’s life and reputation. A charge of False Report of Auto Theft under VC 10501 can land you in jail for up to a year, or up to 3 years if you have a prior conviction for this charge. It can also lead to serious professional and immigration consequences if not handled properly. Our VC 10501 Ontario attorney has successfully defended numerous cases involving false reporting of auto theft offenses under VC 10501. The initial consultation is free and we are available to answer your questions 24/7. Call the Inland Empire Criminal Defense today at 909-939-7126! Located in Ontario, CA.

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