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I. LEGAL DEFINITION

  • VC 10750:  Any person who, without written authorization from the DMV, intentionally defaces, destroys, or alters the motor number or other identification mark of a vehicle required for registration purposes, or places or stamps any serial, motor, or other number or mark upon a vehicle, except one assigned thereto by the department is guilty of a misdemeanor.

  • VC 10802: Any 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 either a misdemeanor or of a felony.

  • VC 10803
  1. 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 either a misdemeanor or of a felony.
  2. b)Any person who possesses, for the purpose of sale, transfer, import, or export, 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 either a misdemeanor or of a felony.

In order to convict you for a violation of VC 10750, the prosecution must prove that you intentionally altered the VIN or other identification number that is required for the registration of vehicles such as a car, truck, trailer, motorbike, or boat.  For example, as you trick your car out, you change the VIN from the longest one on record with the DMV, to simply “FST_DRVR”, without first securing a written authorization by the DMV.

In order to convict you for a violation of VC 10802, the prosecution must prove that you:

  1. altered the VIN or other identification number that is required for the registration of vehicles such as a car, truck, trailer, motorbike, or boat,
  2. that you did that with the intent of preventing the identification of the vehicle, and
  3. that your goal was selling the vehicle, or transferring its ownership, or importing or exporting the vehicle.

This is the case in which, for example, a shady friend of yours comes to your house with a car that you have never seen him drive and about which your friend says – while winking at you – that it belongs to a buddy of his “who no longer wants it”.  Your friend convinces you to change the VIN and sell the car on Craigslist, with the understanding that the two of you will share the proceeds of the sale 50/50.

In order to convict you for a violation of VC 10803, the prosecution must prove either one of two scenarios:

  1. You 1) bought more than one vehicle 2) with the knowledge that the VIN or other identification number of the vehicles had been altered or removed for the purpose of preventing the identification of the vehicles, and 3) with the intent to sell or otherwise transfer ownership of the vehicles.
  2. You 1) possessed more than one vehicle 2) with the knowledge that the VIN or other identification number of the vehicles had been altered or removed for the purpose of preventing the identification of the vehicles, and 3) with the intent to sell or otherwise transfer ownership, import, or export the vehicles.

For example, the same shady friend mentioned in the example above, parks on your property two cars that your friend says are “hot” (i.e. stolen); your friend reassures you that he changed the VIN and that he created registration papers that “look legit”.  You agree that in a couple of days you will load the cars on your flat-bed truck and will transport them to Las Vegas.  Your friend hands to you the keys to the car and tells you that you can take the car for a spin if you feel like it.

II. WHAT DOES IT MEAN?

If you “played” with the VIN of a vehicle without having first obtained written authorization by DMV, you may be arrested, charged, and convicted for a violation of VC 10750, a misdemeanor.  However, if the police have reason to believe that you modified the VIN of a vehicle to prevent its identification and that you intended to sell, transfer ownership, or export or import the vehicle, the prosecution may charge you with a violation of VC 10802, either as a felony or a misdemeanor.  Finally, if the police find out that you bought or possessed more than one vehicle with an altered VIN, and the police have reason to believe that you knew that the VIN of the vehicles was altered and that you intended to sell or transfer ownership of the vehicles, you may be charged with a violation of VC 10803, either as a felony or as a misdemeanor.

In short: 1) Don’t “play” with the VIN of a vehicle unless you first received written authorization from the DMV.  2) Think twice before doing a favor to any shady relative or friend of yours by allowing him or her to leave on a property that you control a vehicle (or more vehicles) that you have never seen your relative or friend driving/riding.  A vehicle with an altered VIN may have been stolen, and – depending on the circumstances – you may be arrested, charged, and convicted of VC 10802, VC 1803, and possibly Receiving Stolen Property (PC 496a), too, as the value of most vehicles exceeds $950.

III. PENALTIES

Altering the VIN of a vehicle in violation of VC 10750 is a misdemeanor, which means that you may be sentenced to no more than one year in county jail, and/or be ordered to pay a $1,000 fine.

If you violated VC 10750, and the police and prosecution believe that you did that to prevent the identification of the vehicle, perhaps because it is stolen, and you intended to sell the vehicle, you may be arrested, charged, and convicted for a violation of VC 10802, either as a misdemeanor or as a felony.  A misdemeanor conviction can result in a sentence of up to one year in county jail, and/or a fine of up to $1,000.  If you are convicted of felony VC 10802, you can be sentenced to up to three years in county jail, and/or the payment of a $25,000 fine.  Whether you will be charged with misdemeanor VC 10802 or felony VC 10802 depends on numerous factors, including but not limited to your own criminal history.

If you committed a violation of VC 10802 in connection with multiple cars at the same time, you may be convicted of a violation of VC 10803, either as a misdemeanor or as a felony.  A misdemeanor conviction can result in a sentence of up to one year in county jail, and/or a fine of up to $1,000.  If you are convicted of felony VC 10803, you can be sentenced to up to six years in county jail, and/or the payment of a $60,000 fine.  Whether you will be charged with misdemeanor VC 10803 or felony VC 10803 depends on numerous factors, including but not limited to your own criminal history.

VC 10750, VC 10802, and VC 10803 are “50% charges”, which means that if the judge sentences you to serve time in custody, for every day you serve in County Jail, you will receive an additional day of credit, so long as your sentence is longer than four total days.

IV. DEFENSES

  1. Insufficient Evidence.  The most common defense used in criminal defense is that there simply isn’t enough evidence to convict you of the charge.  For example, if you are charged with VC 10750, you can show that you altered the VIN inadvertently while you were working on the car.  You had disassembled the car, the screwdriver that you were holding fell, and scratched the part where the VIN is printed/engraved, changing a character of the VIN from “I” to “1”.  In the case of an alleged violation of VC 10803, you can prove that the “shady” relative or friend of yours who parked the stolen cars on your property while you were away, and without your knowledge or authorization, therefore you didn’t know either that the VINs had been altered or what your relative or friend intended to do with the vehicles.
  2. Violation of Your Rights.  As the VIN is often placed in an area of the vehicle that is often visible to anybody, the police may have violated your rights by not reading you the “Miranda” warning after they arrested you and before they started asking you questions about the incident.  Or perhaps the police recognized the cars parked in your fenced-in property as vehicles that were reported stolen, but instead of securing a warrant to enter and search your property, the police simply entered the fenced lot and conducted their investigation, in violation of your 4th Amendment rights.

V. CONCLUSION

Altering your VIN can have very serious consequences, especially in connection with alleged violations of VC 10802 and VC 10803.  In addition to the risk of being sentenced to jail for up to six years, a conviction can result in very heavy fines (up to $60,000), the filing of charges for related crimes such a Receiving Stolen Property and/or Money  Laundering, and a disruption of your personal and professional life, in addition to devastating damages to your reputation. Therefore, it is crucial that you immediately contact our VC 10750, VC 10802, and VC 10803 attorneys if you have concerns that you may be investigated for VIN tampering.  If charges have not yet been filed, we will immediately contact the assigned investigators and prosecutors to assess if law enforcement has sufficient evidence to even file charges, so that we may minimize the risks to your reputations, finances, and freedom.  You, or your loved ones, cannot take a chance on such a serious charge.  Our Ontario VC 10750, VC 10802, and VC 10803 attorneys have successfully defended thousands of people charged with crimes throughout the entire Inland Empire. Call your local Ontario Criminal Defense Attorneys today at the Inland Empire Defense 909-939-7126. Located in Ontario.

Disclaimer: The legal information presented at this site should not be construed to be formal legal advice, nor should it be considered the formation of a lawyer or attorney-client relationship. If you would like to find out more information about your particular legal matter, contact our office for a consultation.
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