Automobiles in California can be stolen for a number of reasons. Sometimes they are stolen and then stripped down so that their component parts may be sold.
Individuals who steal vehicles and break them down for parts generally work out of chop shops. Because of the illicit nature of this activity, individuals in California can face criminal charges under California Vehicle Code Section 10801: Owning or Operating a Chop Shop.
The Simmrin Law Group can help you learn more about VC 10801 charges. Get information about how this charge applies in California’s legal system right here.
California’s Definition of a Chop Shop
Before we dig too deeply into VC 10801 charges, it can be useful to understand the exact legal definition of a chop shop. A chop shop is any lot, premises, or building used to:
- Alter, Destroy, Dismantle, Disassemble, Reassemble, or Store
- Motor Vehicle Parts or Motor Vehicles
- Taken by Fraud, Conspiracy, or Theft
- To Sell or Dispose of a Motor Vehicle or Motor Vehicle Component OR
- To Prevent the Identification of a Motor Vehicle or Motor Vehicle Part
Generally, this involves removing, destroying, or altering identifying features of the vehicle, including the vehicle identification number (VIN).
Owning or Operating a Chop Shop in California
Now that you have a better understanding of the legal definition of a chop shop, you can focus on the definition of VC 10801 charges. This charge generally applies if someone operates a chop shop intentionally.
Generally, individuals must work with vehicle parts or vehicles knowingly obtained with:
- Conspiracy to Defraud
Individuals must also be aware that they are working on vehicles or vehicle parts to:
- Prevent Identification of the Vehicle or Vehicle Parts
- Sell or Get Rid of the Vehicle or Vehicle Parts
Note that individuals can be charged with operating a chop shop just for working in the facility. This means individuals can face VC 10801 charges even if they aren’t the chop shop’s owner or supervisor.
Examples of VC 10801 Charges
Man A owns a garage where people can bring stolen vehicles to have them broken down for parts. He does not take part in the work much himself, but he allows it and gets a cut of the profits. He could be charged with owning or operating a chop shop.
Man B just moved to town and got a job at a local garage. He works hard because he wants to make a good impression. One day, the police raid the business and he discovers it was a chop shop. However, he had no idea he was working on stolen cars, so he could avoid prosecution under VC 10801.
Penalties for a VC 10801 Conviction in California
Individuals in California can be charged with a misdemeanor or a felony for owning or operating a chop shop. The prosecution may look at a number of different factors when deciding how to charge VC 10801, including:
- An Individual’s Criminal History
- The Number of Vehicles in the Chop Shop
- The Value of the Damage Caused by the Chop Shop
These charges can lead to the following penalties:
Misdemeanor VC 10801 Charges:
- Fines: Up to $1,000
- Jail Time: Up to One Year
Felony VC 10801 Charges:
- Fines: Up to $50,000
- Jail Time: Up to Four Years
Individuals may face additional criminal charges depending on the facts surrounding their case. In some situations, the court system can hand down additional penalties tied to:
- California Penal Code 496: Receiving Stolen Property
- California Vehicle Code 10750: Altering a Vehicle Identification Mark
- California Vehicle Code 10802: Tampering with a VIN with Intent to Misrepresent
Legal Defenses to VC 10801 Charges
You may be able to build a defense against VC 10801 charges by contacting a Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer today. A legal professional may be able to construct your defense by arguing that:
You Weren’t Operating a Chop Shop
Many auto-repair businesses are completely legitimate. However, sometimes a business’s employees engage in illegal activities, such as breaking down cars and selling their parts. If you were unaware of these actions as the business owner, you may be able to avoid VC 10801 charges.
You Didn’t Know You Were Working with Stolen Cars
Sometimes, individuals bring stolen cars or car parts into a legitimate repair shop. If you work on a vehicle without knowing it was stolen, you should not be convicted under VC 10801, as you were not intentionally operating a chop shop.
Speak with a Criminal Defense Lawyer About VC 10801 Charges
You do not have to fight California Vehicle Code Section 10801: Owning or Operating a Chop Shop accusations on your own. You can get professional legal advice now by reaching out to the Simmrin Law Group. Start building your case now by calling (310) 896-2723, or filling out our online contact form to speak with a criminal defense lawyer.
You can get answers to your legal questions with a FREE initial case evaluation.