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False Report of Auto Theft - Vehicle Code 10501 VC

Posted by Sam Israels | Jan 22, 2024

California Vehicle Code 10501 VC is the statute that makes it a crime to file a false auto theft report. Most violations are misdemeanors that carry up to six months in county jail and a fine of up to $1,000.

Suppose you falsely report a crime, such as someone stealing your car. In that case, it's considered a waste of law enforcement resources that could be used to investigate actual criminal activity. Further, it is a waste of time and city funds to finance the police department.

For these reasons, several California laws address making false reports to law enforcement, including Vehicle Code 10501 VC, which covers explicitly filing a false or fraudulent report about vehicle theft. 

Vehicle Code 10501 VC - False Report of Auto Theft
VC 10501 makes it a misdemeanor crime to file a false report of an auto theft with intent to deceive.

VC 10501 says, “(a) It is unlawful for any person to make or file a false or fraudulent report of theft of a vehicle required to be registered under this code with any law enforcement agency with the intent to deceive.

(b) If a person has been previously convicted of a violation of subdivision (a), they are punishable by imprisonment pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170 of the Penal Code for 16 months, or two or three years, or in a county jail for not to exceed one year.

This law attempts to prevent the misuse of law enforcement resources and maintain the integrity of the legal system. 

A standard auto insurance fraud scheme is related to VC 10501 falsely reporting a vehicle as stolen to collect insurance money. Thus, insurance investigators and police detectives are aware of this tactic and are on alert for suspicious reports. 

To convict you of VC 10501 filing a false car theft report, a prosecutor must prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that you made a false or fraudulent report of vehicle theft to the police and it was filed with the intent to deceive.

Notably, Vehicle Code 10501 VC only covers false reports of car theft made to law enforcement. This means it does not cover false claims made to insurance companies, which would be covered under other laws, such as auto insurance fraud, discussed below.

Who is Considered a Law Enforcement Agency? 

As noted, it's a crime to file a false or fraudulent report of vehicle theft to police with the intent to deceive. In context, “law enforcement” agencies who can take to false reports include the following: 

  • Local police department,
  • Police officer,
  • Peace officer,
  • County sheriff's office,  
  • California Highway Patrol (CHP),
  • Federal law enforcement agency.

What Factors Must Be Proven for a Conviction? 

To convict you of violating California Vehicle Code 10501, the prosecution must prove several factors that are known as the “elements of the crime,” including the following: 

  • You knowingly made a false report of vehicle theft,
  • The false report was made to a California law enforcement agency,
  • You knew the information you reported was false and
  • You made the false report with the intent to deceive.

An “intent to deceive” means that you intentionally made false statements of fact or knowingly failed to disclose facts to defraud. Notably, a false or fraudulent vehicle theft report can be made in writing or verbally. 

What Are the Related Laws?

Several California laws are related to Vehicle Code 10501 VC false report of auto theft, such as the following:

  • Penal Code 548 – 551 PC – auto insurance fraud,
  • Penal Code 148.5 PC – false report of a crime,
  • Penal Code 115 PC – filing false documents,
  • Penal Code 118 PC – perjury.

What is Auto Insurance Fraud?

Automobile insurance fraud is when someone knowingly makes a false claim or deceives an insurance company to receive benefits they are not legally entitled to. 

Insurance fraud is typically prosecuted as a felony in California and could result in up to five years in state prison. Someone commits auto insurance fraud when they do any of the following:

  • Knowingly submit a fraudulent auto insurance claim for a loss due to damage or theft of a vehicle.
  • Knowingly present or prepare a written or oral statement for an insurance claim with false or misleading information or falsely claim that you live in California on an application for car insurance.

California Penal Code 550 PC says, “(a) It is unlawful to do any of the following or to aid, abet, solicit, or conspire with any person to do any of the following:

(4) Knowingly present a false or fraudulent claim for the payments of a loss for theft, destruction, damage, or conversion of a motor vehicle, part, or contents.

(5) Knowingly prepare, make, or subscribe any writing, with the intent to present or use it, or to allow it to be presented, in support of any false or fraudulent claim.”

Auto insurance fraud and VC 10501 false report of auto theft are separate crimes.

What Are the Penalties for VC 10501?

The penalties for VC 10501 violations will depend on whether it's a first-time or subsequent offense. A first offense will be charged as a misdemeanor with the following penalties: 

  • Fines of up to $1000 and
  • Up to six months in county jail.

Subsequent offenses are wobblers that can be charged either as misdemeanors or felonies, depending on case details: 

  • A misdemeanor carries up to one year in county jail if convicted.
  • A felony carries up to three years in state prison if convicted.

Notably, however, in all VC 10501 violations, the judge can impose probation instead of jail time if circumstances warrant it. This would include summary probation for misdemeanors or formal probation for felonies.

What Is the VC 10501 Defenses?

Suppose you have been accused of VC 10501 false report of auto theft. In that case, our California criminal defense attorney can use different strategies, as discussed below.  The strategy will typically involve challenging one or more of the elements of the crime. 

Maybe we can argue that there was no intent to deceive. A prosecutor must prove you intended to mislead or deceive law enforcement with your car heft report. Perhaps we can confirm that you believe your vehicle has been stolen and persuade them to dismiss the case. 

Maybe we can argue that no report was made to the police. Perhaps you made claims of a stolen vehicle but never filed an official report.
Maybe we can argue that you are the victim of a false allegation. Perhaps we can prove a false auto theft report was made maliciously against you, which would be sufficient to dismiss the case. 

You can contact us for a free case review by phone or using the contact form. Cron, Israels & Stark is in Los Angeles, CA.

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About the Author

Sam Israels

Sam J. Israels is a Law Firm partner with the Law Offices of Cron, Israels, & Stark. Mr. Israels received his J.D. degree from the Santa Clara University School of Law. Mr. Israels also previously worked at the Los Angeles Office of the City Attorney. He is admitted to practice law in the State o...

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