Own or Operate a Chop Shop Law & Defense
VC 10801, 10802, & 10803(a)
Information on crimes related to owning or operating a chop shop are found at vehicle code sections 10801, 10802, and 10803(a).
Chop Shop Crimes (Abbr.)
VC 10801: Any 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 10801 Abbr.).
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 tampering with a vehicle's identification number (VIN). (VC 10802 Abbr.).
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 of buying vehicles with knowledge that the vehicles have been tampered with to misrepresent the identity of the vehicles or their parts (VC 10803(a) Abbr.).
To be found guilty of owing or operating a chop shop (VC 10801) the district attorney must prove that:
- The defendant knows that vehicles, or the parts of vehicles, have been obtained by theft or fraud, and
- The defendant knows that the vehicles, or the parts of vehicles, were obtained for the purpose of altering the vehicle or the parts, and
- The defendant owns or operates a building where the altering of the vehicles or parts is performed.
Note: A chop shop does not have to be a large building or auto shop. A home garage may suffice as a chop shop.
VC 10801 is intended to punish the person who owns or operates the chop shop, whereas VC 10802 and 10803 are intended to punish the persons who actually alter or chop the vehicles or VINs (VC 10802), and the persons who actually buy the altered vehicles (VC 10803).
Sentence (VC 10801, 10802, & 10803(a))
VC 10801 Sentence: Owning or operating a chop shop may be charged as a felony or as a misdemeanor. If the defendant is found guilty of felony VC 10801, the defendant may face up to four (4) years in prison. If the defendant is found guilty of misdemeanor VC 10801, the defendant may face up to one (1) year in jail.
VC 10802 Sentence: Tampering with, or altering, a vehicle identification number (VIN) may be charged as felony or as a misdemeanor. If the defendant is found guilty of felony VC 10802, the defendant may face up to three (3) years in prison. If the defendant is found guilty of misdemeanor VC 10802, the defendant may face up to one (1) year in jail.
VC 10803(a): Sentence: Buy multiple vehicles knowing that the vehicles, or their parts, have been altered to misrepresent the identity of the vehicles or its parts, is charged as a felony or as a misdemeanor. If the defendant is found guilty of felony VC 10803(a), the defendant may face up to three (3) years in prison. If the defendant is found guilty of misdemeanor VC 10803(a), the defendant may face up to one (1) year in jail.
Note: Whether or not the district attorney files a felony or misdemeanor charge in VC 10801, 10802, or 10803(a) cases depends largely on the sophistication of the chop shop operation, the amount of vehicles or parts chopped, and the defendant's criminal history.
Good Conduct Credit: If the defendant is sentenced to jail or prison (as opposed to a probation sentence, see below), the defendant may earn up to fifty percent (50%) credit off his or her jail or prison sentence for good behavior while in custody. This applies to sentences for both felony and misdemeanor chop shop charges.
Probation Sentence: Probation is period of supervision instead of jail or Prison. Probation sentences come with probation terms that must be followed in order to avoid further punishment, including actual jail or prison. Probation for felony chop shop crimes is called formal probation where the defendant is monitored by a probation officer. Probation for misdemeanor chop shop crimes is called informal probation.
Probation sentences are allowed in both misdemeanor and felony chop shop crimes, but every case is decided on a case by case basis and whether or not a probation sentence is available in a particular chop shop case depends largely on the facts of the case and the defendant's criminal history.
Suspended Prison Sentence: Suspended and split prison sentences are allowed in felony VC 10801, 10802, & 10803(a) cases. A suspended prison sentence is a prison sentence that is ordered by the judge but "stayed" pending the successful completion of a felony probation sentence. This means that If the defendant successfully completes his or her felony probation sentence then the suspended prison sentence does not have to be served. If the defendant violates the terms of his or her probation then the judge will order the prison sentence to be served. A split prison sentence is a sentence that is allowed to be served partially in prison and partially out of prison on work release.
Note: Suspended and split prison sentence are not automatic. A judge must find good reason for allowing these alternative sentences. There is no restriction in allowing suspended or split sentences in misdemeanor chop shop cases. For more information on suspended or split prison sentences see Penal Code 1170(h) Crimes.
Three Strikes Law: Chop shop crimes, including the crime of owning or operating a chop shop (VC 10801), is not a "strike" crime per California's Three Strike's Law.
Immigration Consequences: VC 10801, 10802, and 10802(a) are all crimes involving moral turpitude. A crime involving moral turpitude is a crime that is considered morally wrong or involves dishonesty. A conviction for a crime involving moral turpitude, including the crime of owning or operating a chop shop (VC 10801), may lead to deportation or denial of reentry into the United States for non U.S. citizens. See immigration consequences for criminal convictions for more information.
Collateral Punishments: In addition to the punishments listed above, if found guilty of VC 10801, 10802, or 10803(a), the defendant may face any of the following punishments: fines and fees, restraining orders, loss of a professional license, restitution, civil lawsuits, loss of civil rights (including the right to own firearms for felony convictions), and more.
Defenses to Chop Shop Crimes
The most common defenses to a charge of owning or operating a chop shop (VC 10801) includes: insufficient evidence to prove that the defendant knew the vehicles were stolen or that the defendant own or operated the chop shop, statute of limitations, coerced confessions, mistake of fact, entrapment defense, illegal search and seizure, and more.
For more information on defenses, including defenses to the crime of owning or operating a chop shop (VC 10801), or the related crimes of VC 10802 and 10803(a), see defenses.
If you have been charged with owning or operating a chop shop (VC 10801), or the related crimes of VC 10802 or 10803(a), call our criminal attorneys today for a free consult.
Our defense attorneys have successfully defended against hundreds or misdemeanor and felony charges, including VC 10801 and related crimes. We will patiently explain your legal rights and defense options. Call today!
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- VC 10802 Tamper with vehicle identification number
- VC 10803(a) Buy vehicle w/altered ID number
- VC 10851(a) Theft or unauthorized use of vehicle
- VC 10801 Owning or operating a chop shop