Vehicle Code 20 VC - Making False Statements to DMV or CHP
California Vehicle Code makes it a misdemeanor crime to give a false name or knowingly make a false statement to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) or the California Highway Patrol (CHP).
Simply put, you must legally tell the truth in all communications with the DMV and the CHP. Giving them false information on purpose is a crime. A conviction for violating this law can result in up to six months in a county jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
This means you must ensure that you provide accurate information when completing paperwork for a driver's license or vehicle registration.
Vehicle Code VC 20 says, “It is unlawful to use a false or fictitious name or to knowingly make any false statement or knowingly conceal any material fact in any document filed with the Department of Motor Vehicles or the Department of the California Highway Patrol.”
While some inaccurate information may not be deliberate, many people make false statements intentionally to the DMV to unlawfully obtain a license or vehicle registration. Some don't have valid identification or a warrant for their arrest.
However, there are cases where inaccurate information is provided due to confusion while looking at the required forms and which box to check. Further, some questions can confuse others unfamiliar with the title and licensing forms. Perhaps a spelling error or hard-to-read handwriting is misinterpreted. Perhaps there is a language barrier.
Most DMV and CHP forms require a signature saying, “I certify under penalty of perjury under the laws of the State of California that the foregoing is true and correct.”
Providing False Statements - Quick Facts
There are some essential quick facts you should know about California Vehicle Code Section 20, which prohibits providing false information to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) of the California Highway Patrol (CHP), such as the following:
- The false information can be orally given to a CHP officer.
- The false information can be written in a DMV report or application.
- The false information includes using a fake or fictitious name.
- Knowingly making a false statement or concealing a material fact that could affect the outcome is also prohibited.
- Giving a police officer a fake ID is also illegal under the law.
What Are the Elements of the Crime?
To be convicted of violating VC 20, the prosecution must prove all the elements of the crime, including the following:
- You provided a written statement or information to the DMV or CHP;
- The information or statement in question was false or misleading;
- You knew the information or statement was false or misleading, and
- You provided this false information, or you withheld material information with the intent to deceive.
What Are the Related Laws?
Several California vehicle laws are related to Vehicle Code 20 VC and could be additionally charged in some circumstances, including the following:
- Vehicle Code 31 VC - false information to police;
- Vehicle Code 14601 VC - driving on a suspended license;
- Vehicle Code 12500(a) VC - driving without a valid license;
- Vehicle Code 16028 VC - driving without proof of insurance;
- Vehicle Code 4463 VC - fraudulent vehicle registration;
- Penal Code 148.9 PC - providing false identification to police;
- Penal Code 148.5 PC - making a false report of a crime;
- Penal Code 118 PC - perjury;
- Penal Code 470(a) PC - forgery of a driver's license;
- Penal Code 470(b) PC - possessing fake driver's license.
What Are the VC 20 Penalties?
As noted, a conviction under VC 20 is a misdemeanor that carries up to six months in county jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
However, a judge will often grant probation instead of a jail sentence, but the terms usually include community service, counseling, or other conditions.
What Are the Defenses?
As discussed below, several defense strategies by our Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers could be used to challenge alleged violations of Vehicle Code 20.
Maybe we can argue that there was a lack of knowledge or intent. Recall that prosecutors must prove that you knowingly made a false statement. Maybe we argue that you genuinely believed the information was accurate when you provided it and that you had no intent to deceive.
Maybe we can argue that the misleading or concealed information was not material. In other words, if the information withheld or falsely given would not have changed the outcome, you might be able to avoid charges.
Maybe we can argue that there was a coerced statement due to intimidation by law enforcement officers. Perhaps we can say that there was no probable cause. CHP must have valid probable cause to believe you broke the law. You can contact our law firm for a free case review by phone or via the contact form. Cron, Israels & Stark is based in Los Angeles, CA.