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Vehicle Registration Fraud

California Vehicle Registration Fraud - Vehicle Code 4463 VC

It's a crime in California to engage in fraud or forgery regarding vehicle registration certificates, tags or stickers, license plates, or a smog test certificate. Prosecutors will use Vehicle Code 4463 VC to charge this crime as a misdemeanor or a felony (wobbler).

The state considers all vehicle registration information as official documentation, meaning falsifying or forging any of these items is illegal and considered auto registration fraud.

California Vehicle Registration Fraud - Vehicle Code 4463 VC

Many believe this type of crime is minor, but forging or falsifying vehicle registration information is serious and could lead to felony charges and jail time.

VC 4463 covers a wide range of unlawful conduct, such as altering or counterfeiting registration cards and stickers, displaying fraudulent or forged registration cards, or attempting to pass them as valid stickers. Other illegal actions include:

  • registering a vehicle with the wrong year,
  • giving a false car value,
  • register your car in another state while living in California to pay fewer fees,
  • using another person's valid registration stickers or papers.

If convicted, you could receive up to 3 years in prison and have a felony conviction on your record. Our California criminal defense attorneys will look at this law below.

What Is Auto Registration Fraud in California?

As discussed above, according to Vehicle Code 4463 VC, it is considered criminal auto registration fraud to do any of the acts below:

  • Create or forge false counterfeit vehicle registration stickers or cards or modify/alter an existing registration with inaccurate information;
  • Have possession of forged, altered, or false registration cards or stickers with the intent to defraud;
  • To display, or permit to be displayed, possess a blank, incomplete, suspended, revoked, altered, counterfeit, or false car registration card, license plate, registration sticker, or smog certificate to defraud;
  • Attempt to pass off any forged or false registration cards or stickers as valid or authentic.

The same law applies to other vehicles' registration info, such as smog certificates, license plates, temporary plates, and ownership certificates. Fraud is described as a deliberate deception to secure an unlawful gain.

What About Some Examples?

Committing auto registration fraud in California can occur in many ways, such as:

  • Using someone else's smog certificate to pass the smog test;
  • Switching someone's license plate to use their registration stickers;
  • Registering your vehicle in another state to avoid paying fees here:
  • Intentionally giving the wrong year of your vehicle to pass fewer fees.

What are the Penalties for VC 4463?

As noted, auto registration fraud can be charged either as a misdemeanor or a felony.

Penalties for California Vehicle Code 4463 VC

Prosecutors use different factors to decide, such as the circumstances of the case and your criminal record. If convicted of a misdemeanor, you face up to $1000 in fines and up to 1 year in jail.

If convicted of a felony, the fines will increase to $10,000, and you could receive a jail sentence of 16 months, two years, or three years.

Judges, however, have the discretion to impose only probation rather than time in jail.

Despite the charge level, you could be facing a loss of your driver's license if the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) has reason to believe you submitted fraudulent information on an application. 

They could decide to either suspend or revoke your existing license or refuse to renew your license when it expires.

What are the Related California Offenses?

  • Forging or counterfeiting a driver's license under Penal Code 470a PC could be filed as a separate crime and carries up to three years in prison;
  • Giving false information to the DMV under Vehicle Code 20 VC can be charged if your fraudulent registration involved giving a fictitious name;
  • Giving false Information to a police officer under Vehicle Code 31 VC includes verbal and written falsehoods. You could be charged with this crime if you are pulled over during a traffic stop, and the police check a fake registration.
  • Forging or counterfeiting a public seal under Penal Code 472 PC can be charged If your fake registration contains a counterfeit California seal.

What are the Defenses for This Crime?

There would be several common legal defenses if you were arrested and charged with Vehicle Code 4463 VC auto registration fraud.

Perhaps we can argue that you unknowingly possessed fraudulent registration cards or stickers.  Maybe we can argue there was a lack of intent to defraud or that you didn't act willfully.

Defenses for California Vehicle Registration Fraud Charges

Perhaps you were mistaken about your registration information or were unaware that your statement was incorrect. Recall that the prosecution must prove intent to convict you.

Perhaps we could argue there was an unlawful search and seizure or no probable cause. If law enforcement searched you without probable cause that led to your arrest, we might be able to argue there was a violation of your constitutional rights and get the case dropped.

Maybe there is insufficient evidence for a conviction as the case is based only on circumstantial evidence rather than direct evidence showing guilt. Perhaps we can convince the prosecutor that they don't have sufficient proof to obtain a conviction and are forced to drop the charges.

In cases where guilt is not in doubt, then we may be able to negotiate a favorable plea bargain, such as a guilty plea in exchange for a lesser charge.

Perhaps we could negotiate prefiling with law enforcement and the prosecution to avoid filing charges before the first court date (DA reject). Cron, Israels & Stark is located in Los Angeles, California. We offer a free case evaluation via phone, or you can fill out the contact form.

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