California Vehicle Code Section 10750 VC: Altering A Vehicle Identification Mark

identification mark violation1. Definition and Elements of the Crime

In order to ensure that cars can be readily identified and tracked, all cars are assigned a vehicle identification number (“VIN”) that is imprinted directly onto the automobile by the manufacturer. While license plates, paint jobs and other identifying information may be changed on the vehicle, the VIN will always remain constant. In many cases where vehicles are stolen or involved in auto insurance fraud schemes, someone may attempt to remove the VIN so that the car can never be identified. However, altering a vehicle identification mark is a criminal offense under California Vehicle Code Section 10750 VC that can expose someone to a wide variety of punishments.

To prove a defendant is guilty of altering a vehicle identification mark under California Vehicle Code Section 10750 VC, a prosecutor must be able to establish the following elements:

  1. The defendant intentionally defaced or destroyed the motor number or identification mark of a vehicle.
  2. AND the defendant did so without written authorization from the Department of Motor Vehicles.

This statute does not prohibit the restoration by an owner of a vehicle’s original identification number. In addition, this statute does not prevent a manufacturer from placing numbers or marks on new motor vehicles as part of the ordinary course of business.

2. Related Offenses

Other similar or related offenses include:

  1. Grand Theft Auto – California Penal Code Section 487(d)(1) PC
  2. Tampering with a Vehicle – California Vehicle Code Section 10852 VC
  3. Owning or Operating a Chop Shop – California Vehicle Code Section 10801 VC
  4. Illegal Possession or Sale of a Vehicle Identification Number – California Vehicle Code Section 10752 VC
  5. Tampering with a Vehicle Identification Number – California Vehicle Code Section 10802 VC
3. Examples

A man operates a chop shop that purchases vehicles from questionable sources and then breaks down the vehicle and sells its parts. Before dismantling any vehicle, the man is careful to obliterate any vehicle identification number or mark that could be traced back to an original owner. In addition to being charged with owning or operating a chop shop in violation of California Vehicle Code Section 10801 VC, the man could be charged under California Vehicle Code Section 10750 VC for altering a vehicle identification mark.

In another example, a man purchases and restores classic cars as a hobby. In many cases, the man wants to restore the original vehicle identification marks and imprints that have been damaged by age, neglect and rust. In order to restore these original marks, the man must use corrosive acids and tools that effectively alter the mark back to its original condition. In this example, the man would not be criminally liable under California Vehicle Code Section 10750 VC because the statute specifically exempts an owner restoring an original vehicle identification mark or number.

4. Defenses to Altering a Vehicle Identification Mark

As described above, this statute does not apply to manufacturers imprinting vehicle identification marks or numbers on new vehicles as part of their ordinary course of business. In addition, vehicle owners restoring original vehicle identification numbers would be exempt from prosecution.

There may be instances in which a defendant inadvertently removes identifying vehicle numbers or marks when their car comes into contact with corrosive substances. These defendants would have a valid accident defense if charged criminally.

5. Penalties

Altering a vehicle identification mark is a misdemeanor under the law. Those convicted of this crime can be sentenced to serve up to six months in jail, in addition to substantial court fines and any other probation conditions that may be assigned.

6. Criminal Defense for Altering a Vehicle Identification Mark Cases

If you or a loved one have been charged with altering a vehicle identification mark, it is crucial that you consult with a knowledgeable and experienced Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney as soon as possible. Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer Michael Kraut is a former Deputy District Attorney with over 14 years of prosecutorial experience who knows how to effectively represent clients charged with criminal offenses like this. Mr. Kraut is highly respected throughout the court system as a tenacious litigator who works hard to ensure his clients receive the best defense possible.

For more information about altering a vehicle identification mark, and to schedule your free consultation, contact Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney Michael Kraut at the Kraut Law Group located at 6255 Sunset Boulevard, Suite 1480, Los Angeles, CA 90028. Mr. Kraut can be reached 24/7 at 888-334-6344 or 323-464-6453.

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