Vehicle Code 10801 VC - California Law on Operating a Chop Shop

Have you recently received a citation for a Vehicle Code 10801 VC violation and you’re wondering what you should know about it? This is a serious violation to understand, especially when it comes to understanding your potential defenses. Below, you’ll learn all about it, including:

What is Vehicle Code 10801 VC?

There’s no better place to start than with the California legislative definition. This particular violation reads: “Any person who knowingly and intentionally owns or operates a chop shop is guilty of a public offense…”

What this means, basically, is that you are guilty of a Vehicle Code 10801 VC violation if you are knowingly operating in, or owning, a “chop shop”. A chop shop is a mechanic’s shop (which may or may not be a legitimate business as a front) that takes apart stolen cars and farms out their pieces to other cars, often including stolen license plates and Vehicle Identification Numbers (VINs) specifically to sell them as “pieced-together” cars for a high profit.

What does it mean to have violated Vehicle Code 10801 VC?

To make sure that you understand what this means completely, as it can be confusing when you look at what “knowingly” and “intentionally” means with this offense, let’s take a look at it in detail with a few examples (and exceptions), using our imaginary California resident, Trevor.

Trevor is a talented mechanic and is loaning out his skills to his friend, Kayla, who has a chop shop. He helps take apart stolen cars and destroys the VINs on them, or modifies them to help re-sell the parts in new parts to other chop shops, or put in a cobbled-together car in his shop. Whether he is dismantling, altering, or storing a part on the premises, he would be equally guilty of a Vehicle Code 10801 VC violation.

Much the same goes for if he is knowingly working in a garage or shop where the cars and parts that come in are stolen. If Trevor has reason to believe that they are stolen or knows for a fact that they are stolen (including the VINs), he is guilty of a Vehicle Code 10801 VC violation even if he didn’t do the stealing or the tampering or the assembling/disassembling himself.

In another situation, let’s pretend that Trevor is the owner of the chop shop. Even though he isn’t directly involved in the day-to-day operations of the shop, he is the owner of the actual shop itself. Trevor thinks that he is being smart by “keeping his hands clean”, so the saying goes. But, he’s just as guilty as if he were operating within the shop itself.

There are a few exceptions to a Vehicle Code 10801 VC violation when it is issued, of course. Let’s say that Trevor, the talented mechanic that he is, doesn’t know that he is working with stolen VINs, parts, etc. He is simply doing his job by replacing parts that he genuinely believes to come from legitimate sources. In this case, he would be now knowingly working with stolen pieces and would be innocent of a Vehicle Code 10801 VC violation.

Similarly, Trevor is taking apart a car with the instruction of the owner of the shop. He is told that it is for a replacement and a repair. Since he believes that is simply doing a repair as requested by the customer, rather than dismantling a car deliberately to farm out its pieces to other cars, he would also be innocent of a citation.

If Trevor is the owner of a legitimate business such as a mechanic shop that has workers that are operating a chop shop, he would also be considered innocent of a Vehicle Code 10801 VC violation if he genuinely didn’t know that his workers were working with stolen materials, VINs, etc. This one can often be a little harder to prove as owners are often “in the know” about every little thing that happens in their shop.

What can I do about this violation?

The court that issues the Vehicle Code 10801 VC violation can either classify it as a misdemeanor or a felony. If it is classified as a misdemeanor, the penalty would be up to 1 year spent in county jail and a fine of up to $1, 000. If it is classified as a felony, it can carry a punishment of up to 4 years in county jail and a fine of up to $50, 000.

The classification will depend greatly on how many vehicles/parts were seized during the citation, and the situation surrounding your involvement. As well, any past criminal record or driver’s record will factor in. The jail time can sometimes be switched to probation in both cases, and there are often other conditions to it, such as repayment of all victims impacted, community service, and more. This will be dependent on the court and the peace officer, of course.

In all cases, the best thing to do is plead guilty in court and accept the punishment as it is brought to you in the court itself. This is, of course, assuming you are guilty of a Vehicle Code 10801 VC violation! If you believe that you’re innocent, such as with the exceptions above, you can plead your case with representation in the court and explain your case with whatever evidence and testimony that you can provide.

Other possible Vehicle Code violation connections

There are quite a few traffic code violations that can be connected to a Vehicle Code 10801 VC violation. These can include the below listings.

  • Vehicle Code 10802 VC: This violation means that you are deliberately changing a VIN to make it different and change the “identity” of the car. This would be to sell it.
  • Vehicle Code 10750 VC: This is a lesser violation, and it implies only the tampering or changing of the VIN. There doesn’t need to be proven intent to sell in this case.
  • Vehicle Code 10752 VC: This violation is related to intending to sell or possess a serial number or manufacturer’s ID number that is part of another car.
  • Vehicle Code 10803 VC: This particular violation means that you are buying or in possession of, vehicles that have changed or adapted VINs.
  • Vehicle Code 4463 VC: By altering the VIN on a registration card, license, etc, you are guilty of modifying a DMV-issued document, which is another violation.

Based on the situation surrounding your citation of a Vehicle Code 10801 VC violation, any or all of these violations can be added to your citation. The peace officer can also choose to use any or all of these in place of a Vehicle Code 10801 VC violation.

Is this ticket eligible for traffic school?

Many tickets are eligible for an accredited traffic school such as MM TRAFFIC SCHOOL. However, this particular ticket is not eligible for traffic school. Eligibility relates to receiving a “moving citation”, such as passing illegally or failing to stop at a stop sign before completing your turn. Since this citation refers to illegal operations and buying a selling, rather than your actual driving technique itself, there is no eligibility for a traffic school.

If you’re looking for more information on this, however, please feel free to contact us and we can explain eligibility and your citation in more detail. If you want more specific notes on your particular case, please feel free to reach out to the court that issued your ticket as well.

How can I avoid a citation for a Vehicle Code 10801 VC violation?

To best protect yourself from criminal charges such as jail time and large fines, you’ll want to avoid a Vehicle Code 10801 VC violation as much as possible. There are a few tips to help you avoid this!

Firstly, if you are job hunting as a mechanic, you’ll want to make sure that you do a thorough background check and community check on the companies that you are considering. They should all be above board and listed as such, including with proper certifications and licenses, etc. If anything seems “sketchy”, then you should walk away and/or report it.

If you are working in a shop where something comes across your table that seems “off” (such as a scratched-out VIN, or something that just doesn’t feel right), you’ll want to either report it to a higher-up in the shop or report it to the authorities if this makes you more comfortable. Remember that working “with your head down” and deliberately ignoring the evidence right in front of you makes you just as guilty!

If you are an owner of a shop or a business that works with vehicles, it’s important to keep a very close eye on both the work being done regularly and that the people that you hire are all above-board, etc. The more particular you are, the easier you’ll be able to spot trouble before it becomes, well, trouble. As mentioned above, having a suspicion that something fishy is going on in your shop makes you just as guilty. Keep in mind: all of these situations involve suspecting or knowing that there is a chop shop operating around you, or in your business space. If you genuinely do not know that something is going on in a shop, you would be innocent of a Vehicle Code 10801 VC violation.



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