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Tamper with Vehicle

Vehicle Code 10852 VC - Tampering with a Motor Vehicle

It is a crime under California law to tamper with or damage a vehicle or remove or break parts of it. This crime is codified under Vehicle Code 10852 VC.

The closely related law, Penal Code 459 PC auto burglary, makes it a crime to enter a locked vehicle with the intent to commit a felony or theft offense.

Vehicle Code 10852 VC - Tampering with a Motor Vehicle
it's a misdemeanor crime to tamper with a vehicle, including removing individual car parts.

Suppose you don't enter the vehicle but rather remove and steal parts of it, such as the license plate or hubcaps. Suppose you opened the unlocked door and started going through the contents of the glove box or middle console compartment.

In that case, you could be charged with violating California Vehicle Code 10852 VC, tampering with a vehicle.

Simply put, this state law prohibits willfully tampering with, injuring, breaking, or removing individual car parts. Notably, to “tamper” means to interfere with the vehicle somehow.

This statute further makes it a state crime for someone to intentionally tamper with a vehicle alone or with an accomplice without consent, including any parts of the vehicle, even if the parts in question are unnecessary for the car to function. If you're convicted of this crime, you could face fines of up to $5000 and up to a year in jail. Let's review further below.

What Does the Law Say?

The statutory language of VC 10852 is straightforward and says, "No person shall either individually or in association with one or more other persons, willfully injure or tamper with any vehicle or the contents thereof or break or remove any part of a vehicle without the consent of the owner."

To obtain a conviction, a prosecutor must prove all the elements of the crime beyond any reasonable doubt, including that you did the following:

  • Tampered with or injured a vehicle; or
  • Tampered with, broke, or removed parts of the vehicle; or
  • Tampered with the contents of the car;
  • Acted willfully and without the owner's permission.

Additional factors you should know about this law.

  • Tampering with a vehicle means interfering with it, such as acting that will alter its appearance or function;
  • Willfully means it was an act on purpose rather than an accident. Notably, prosecutors do not have to prove that you intended to commit a crime or harm, only that your behavior was willful;
  • Acting in association with other people has the same penalties as working alone. This means you could be charged and convicted if you were part of a group of people tampering with the car, but your participation was minimal.

What Are the Related Laws?

Several California crimes are related to tampering with a motor vehicle and could be charged along with or instead of Vehicle Code 10852 VC, such as the following:

  • Vehicle Code 10853 VC malicious mischief prohibits getting into or onto a vehicle to tamper with its mechanisms with malicious intent;
  • Penal Code 594 PC vandalism laws prohibit someone from deliberately causing damage to a vehicle or its contents;
  • Vehicle Code 10851 VC unauthorized use of a vehicle (joyriding) law prohibits someone from taking or driving another person's vehicle without their consent.
  • Penal Code 484 PC petty theft law prohibits stealing money or property valued under $950 from inside the car;
  • Penal Code 487 PC grand theft law prohibits stealing property or money from a vehicle valued over $950.
  • Penal Code 487(d)(1) PC grand theft law auto prohibits taking another person's vehicle without consent with the intent to deprive the owner.
  • Penal Code 459 PC auto burglary law prohibits entering a locked vehicle intending to steal or take property inside.

What Are the Penalties for VC 10852?  

Suppose you are convicted of violating VC 10852 tampering with a motor vehicle. In that case, it's a misdemeanor offense that carries the following penalties:

  • A fine of up to $5000, and
  • Up to one year in county jail.

However, the judge can reduce the penalty to summary probation rather than serving jail time.

What Are the Defenses for VC 10852? 

Suppose you are accused of VC 10852 10852 tampering with a motor vehicle. In that case, our Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer could use various strategies to obtain the best possible outcome, as discussed below.

Defenses for Tampering with a Motor Vehicle
Contact our criminal law firm for advice.

Perhaps we can challenge or cast some doubt on one of the elements of the crime described above. Maybe we could argue that you had permission from the owner.

Maybe we can argue that there was a lack of criminal intent. It may have been accidental, such as a part being removed while you were trying to repair it, but it was not a willful act.

Maybe we can argue that you are the victim of a false allegation or misidentification. Perhaps the guilty person is attempting to blame you for their actions, and they are trying to cover up.

Maybe we can negotiate with the prosecutor prefiling to avoid criminal charges from being filed, called a “DA reject.”  We offer a free case consultation by phone or through the contact form. Cron, Israels & Stark have offices in Los Angeles, CA.

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