Catalytic Converter Criminal Laws
Catalytic converter theft has become a growing theft crime in Los Angeles, prompting legislators to pass strict criminal laws combatting this illegal activity. Due to the rising values of the precious materials found in catalytic converters, criminals have targeted these devices for theft and illegal trade. Law enforcement agencies are especially vigilant against crimes involving the theft and illicit trade of catalytic converters and devote resources into specialized units dedicated to investigating and uncovering catalytic converter theft rings.
The surge in catalytic converter theft in the Los Angeles area can be attributed to the high market value of precious metals contained within these emission control devices, such as platinum, palladium and rhodium. Thieves target vehicles parked in public places, quickly removing the converters using specialized tools. The stolen converters are then sold to black market scrap metal dealers, who extract the valuable metals from profit. These crimes not only cause financial loss to vehicle owners, but also contribute to environmental harm as vehicles without catalytic converters release pollutants at higher levels.
Someone caught stealing or attempting to steal catalytic converters can be charged with a number of felonies in Los Angeles. Because of the high value of the precious metals, catalytic converter theft almost always qualifies as grand theft pursuant to Penal Code Section 487(a). In addition, a person trying to remove a catalytic converter can be criminal charged with tampering with a vehicle in violation of Vehicle Code Section 10852. Finally, individuals or organizations found to be in possession of catalytic converters that are suspected to be stolen can be charged with receiving stolen property under California Penal Code Section 496.
In 2022, the California Legislature passed SB1087 and AB1740. SB 1087 requires recyclers to purchase catalytic converters from certified sellers, including auto repair dealers and adds penalties to recyclers who purchase off of the black market. In addition, AB 1740 requires recyclers purchasing catalytic converters to maintain records that include the seller’s address, phone number and business license number. These laws were passed in an attempt to crack down on the massive catalytic converter black markets in the Los Angeles area.
To combat catalytic converter theft and the sale or trade of stolen catalytic converters, many law enforcement agencies have set up units dedicated to investigating these crimes and crimes related to catalytic converter theft. The Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department has established the Task Force for Regional Auto Theft or TRAP team. These units are made up of experienced investigators dedicated to investigating crimes involving auto thefts and the thefts of automobile parts. In recent years, units like TRAP have shifted their attention and resources to the lucrative and ever-expanding area of catalytic converter thefts and dedicate extensive amount of time into undercover investigations and sting operations relating to the possession, sale and transport of stolen catalytic converters.
Identifying a stolen catalytic converter may be difficult, however law enforcement will always be suspicious of catalytic converters sold by themselves by individuals (and not licensed auto dealers) or for prices well below market value.
If you or someone you know have been accused of catalytic converter theft, it is critical that you retain a skilled attorney as soon as possible. Attorney Michael Kraut is a former Deputy District Attorney who understands how to effectively defend individuals charged with catalytic converter theft and receiving stolen property.
For more information about catalytic converter crimes, and to schedule your free consultation, contact attorney Michael Kraut at the Kraut Law Group located at 6255 Sunset Boulevard, Suite 1520, Los Angeles, CA 90028. Mr. Kraut can be reached 24/7 at 888-334-6344 or 323-464-6453.