All motor vehicles are inscribed with a unique identifier called the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). Tracking car registrations, insurance coverage, warranties, and vehicle theft reports is necessary. Thus, California Vehicle Code 10750 VC makes it a crime to intentionally alter or change a VIN.
VC 10750 says, “(a) Nobody shall intentionally deface, destroy, or alter the motor number, other distinguishing numbers, or identification mark of a vehicle that is required for registration purposes, or place or stamp any serial, motor, or other number or mark upon a vehicle, except one assigned the department.”
To be convicted for violating this law, a prosecutor has to prove that you intentionally defaced or destroyed the motor number or identification mark on a car and did so without authorization from the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).
Simply put, it's a crime to knowingly change, replace, alter, remove, or obliterate a VIN without written authorization from the DMV. In addition, putting a false VIN on a vehicle or part under this section is also a crime.
Notably, the statute does not prohibit the restoration by an owner of the original vehicle identification number when authorized. The law also does not prohibit the manufacturer from putting business numbers on new motor vehicles or parts.
If you are convicted of violating Vehicle Code 10750 VC, it's a misdemeanor that carries up to one year in county jail and a fine. Let's review this law in greater detail below.
What Is a Vehicle Identification Number?
A vehicle identification number (VIN) is a motor number serial number, or other distinguishing numbers, letters, or information.
A VIN is used to identify a motor vehicle or a part and for vehicle registration. The number is a series of 17 characters, combining letters and digits, unique only to that vehicle.
The VIN is on the vehicle's DMV registration and included on a metal plate on the driver's side dashboard or door jamb. They can also be located on the car engine, frame, or body and are always listed on the California DMV paperwork.
The VIN is also generally hidden in several other places on the car. So you can't change all the numbers unless you know where to find them.
Why Would the DMV Authorize a VIN Change?
The definition of VC 10750 says it's a crime to alter or change a VIN without DMV authorization. Thus, if you have permission, it's not a crime. The DMV will usually authorize a VIN change under the following situations:
- When a car is rebuilt using parts taken from other vehicles and the DMV will assign a new VIN;
- When a vehicle is restored, the DMV allows a new VIN.
What Are the Related Crimes?
Several California offenses are related to Vehicle Code 10750 VC altering or changing a VIN, such as the following:
- Vehicle Code 10802 VC - altering a VIN for misidentification is another form of changing a VIN when the intent is to misrepresent the vehicle's identity to sell or transfer ownership.
- Vehicle Code 10803 VC - buying or possessing a vehicle with an altered VIN can be charged if you own or operate a car with an illegal VIN when you knew it had been changed;
- Vehicle Code 4463 VC - vehicle registration fraud which prohibits someone from knowingly falsifying or creating counterfeit vehicle registrations, license plates, license stickers, or certificates of ownership;
- Vehicle Code 10852 VC - tampering with a vehicle;
- Penal Code 487(d)(1) PC - grand theft auto;
- Vehicle Code 10801 VC - owning or operating a chop shop.
What Are the Penalties for VC 10750?
VC 10750 altering or changing a VIN is a misdemeanor offense. If convicted, the maximum penalties include up to one year in county jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
The judge can impose summary probation as an alternative to jail.
What Are the Defenses for VC 10750?
As discussed below, our Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys could use several strategies to fight the charges. To obtain a conviction, the prosecutor has to show that you acted with specific criminal intent.
In other words, you can't be convicted unless prosecutors demonstrate that you willfully altered or changed the VIN without DMV authorization. Perhaps we can show there is insufficient evidence to prove this crucial factor.
Maybe we can argue that the VIN was previously altered, meaning you did not personally change it; rather, it was altered without your knowledge before you took possession of it.
Maybe we can argue accidental defacement, meaning the VIN was not altered intentionally. Perhaps you were unaware that you were affecting the vehicle's unique identifier.
If you were accused of altering a car's VIN, contact us for a free case evaluation to review the details and options. Cron, Israels & Stark is located in Los Angeles, CA.