CA Vehicle Code 10801 VC
VC 10801 – Operating a Chop Shop in California
Operating a Chop Shop – Table of Contents
What is the definition of Operating a Chop Shop under VC 1081?
Any person who knowingly and willingly owns or operates a chop shop violates Vehicle Code 10801 VC.
What qualifies under the mental state knowingly and willingly, in terms of Vehicle Code 10801 VC?
Knowledge is defined as the acknowledgement that the vehicle, the parts in the vehicle, or vehicle parts alone are stolen and presented for sale or service to another recipient for profit. Willful is the intent of another to operate a chop shop as a service, in accepting those products to service vehicles either by placing the products in vehicles or selling them separately for profit. Knowledge can derive from visual perception, verbal cues and implied gestures from the buyer, owner, or his agents.ii
What qualifies as a chop shop under VC 10801?
Vehicle Code 250 VC states:
“A ‘chop shop’ is any building, lot, or other premises where any person has been engaged in altering, destroying, disassembling, dismantling, reassembling, or storing any motor vehicle or motor vehicle part known to be illegally obtained by theft, fraud, or conspiracy to defraud, in order to do either of the following:
“(a) Alter, counterfeit, deface, destroy, disguise, falsify, forge, obliterate, or remove the identity, including the vehicle identification number, of a motor vehicle or motor vehicle part, in order to misrepresent the identity of the motor vehicle or motor vehicle part, or to prevent the identification of the motor vehicle or motor vehicle part.
“(b) Sell or dispose of the motor vehicle or motor vehicle part.”
What about the essence of ownership, how is that defined under VC 10801?
Ownership is established by any exercise of control over the vehicle, its components, or components alone for the purpose of a sale. More specifically there needs to be active control over the transaction for the benefit of a chop shop.
Does the owner have to know that his premises and or business is utilized as a chop shop; or that stolen vehicles, parts stolen from a vehicle or stolen parts alone are sold on the premises of a legally operated business?
Yes. There needs to be more than mere participation. It is not enough that an agent, even an agent has supervisory powers the owner of the shop must have active knowledge.
What are the penalties for violating Vehicle Code 10801 VC?
Vehicle Code 10801 VC can be charged as a wobbler. The penalty is jail time up to 1 year in county jail and fines upwards to $1000 dollars as a misdemeanor.
But if the offense is charged as a felony under Penal Code 1170 (PC) then the penalty is 2, 3, or 4 years in State Prison with fines not exceeding $50,000 dollars.
The purpose of Penal Code 1170(PC) applies to a single criminal act that encompasses multiple felonies. These offenses are called trailing felonies.vi
What is an example of a violation Vehicle Code 10801 VC?
- An auto shop owner operates a restoration shop in a Santa Monica. The shop deals with classic cars. The shop has 4 employees: a lead mechanic, an apprentice, a manager and a receptionist. The manager and the lead mechanic have access to keys for the garage and the cars, and the access codes to disable the shop’s alarm. For the past week the owner saw the same group of teenagers at the same time buying car parts from the manager. The parts that were purchased had no wrapping or packaging. Because of the owner’s experience he recognized the parts as belonging to Japanese import race vehicles- not classic cars.
The shop owner was disturbed by the unaccounted-for inventory and inquired about the transactions. The manager simply replied, “don’t worry about the parts business is going very well!” The teenagers were arrested for racing at dangerous speeds exceeding 100 mph, resulting in the confiscation of their cars. Upon an inventory search of the vehicles seized, the police officers discovered that the cars had multiple parts with no serial numbers. In exchange for no jail time the teenagers agreed to show the police where they purchased the parts. The teenagers told the officers that the store manager sold them the parts. Upon an investigation of the security footage both the owner and the manager were arrested.
What are some of the defenses against a violation for Vehicle Code 10801 VC?
- Lack of Consent/ Frolic – the employees or agents do not have access or supervisory powers and do not have positions of authority.
- Mistake in Fact – the business is not a chop shop nor operates in the sale or service of vehicles.
- Duress – My employees and or myself were threatened with serious bodily harm to sell stolen vehicles or stolen vehicle parts.
- No Mental State of Knowledge or Willfully Intent – The stolen car or car parts resemble the inventory my shop sells. I would not have known, as I have lots of employees and my exercise of control was delegated to staff to whom I trusted for years.
If you are charged with operating a chop shop under Vehicle Code 10801 VC, call The Esfandi Law Group. Contact Los Angeles criminal defense attorney Seppi Esfandi.
Call Us: 310-274-6529
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