Vehicle Code 10501 VC - Filing a False Auto Theft Report
Making false reports of criminal activity to law enforcement agencies wastes considerable time, money, and resources that could be used to fight actual crimes. For this reason, California has numerous laws on the books about falsely reporting crimes to the police.
California Vehicle Code 10501 VC is a specific law that criminalizes filing a false or fraudulent report about vehicle theft. This legislation seeks to prevent the misuse of law enforcement resources and maintain the integrity of the legal system.
One of the most commonly-charged auto insurance fraud schemes is related to falsely reporting a vehicle as stolen to collect the insurance payout. Insurance company Investigators and local police detectives know these types of illegal schemes.
However, to convict you of VC 10501 filing a false auto theft report, it must be proven that you unlawfully made or filed a false or fraudulent report and that it was done with the intent to deceive.
VC 10501 says, “(a) It is unlawful for any person to make or file a false or fraudulent report of theft of a vehicle required to be registered under this code with any law enforcement agency with the intent to deceive.
(b) If a person has been previously convicted of a violation of subdivision (a), they are punishable by imprisonment pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170 of the Penal Code for 16 months, or two or three years, or in a county jail for not to exceed one year.”
If you're charged with this crime and are convicted, depending on the facts of your case, you are facing harsh consequences. Let's review this state law in more detail below.
Overview of VC 10501
The text of VC 10501 is simple and straightforward. It's illegal for anyone to make or file a false or fraudulent report of theft of a vehicle required to be registered with the intent to deceive. Law enforcement agencies who receive the false report can include:
- Peace officers;
- Local police;
- County sheriff offices;
- California Highway Patrol; or
- Federal law enforcement officials.
To convict you of a crime under Vehicle Code 10501, the prosecution must prove, beyond any reasonable doubt, the following specific elements beyond a reasonable doubt:
- You knowingly made a false report about vehicle theft;
- The report was made to a law enforcement agency in California;
- You were aware that the information was false; and
- You made the false report with the intent to deceive.
An “intent to deceive” means someone deliberately made false statements of fact or knowingly failed to disclose facts to trick or defraud somebody. Further, a false, fraudulent report can be made in writing or verbally.
Note that VC 10501 only covers false reports of auto theft made to police officers or other types of law enforcement. It does not, for example, cover false claims made to insurance companies. These false claims fall under other ordinances related to auto insurance fraud.
What Are Some Examples?
EXAMPLE 1: Ted's car is in danger of being repossessed due to missed payments. To throw the collectors off the scent, Ted hides the vehicle and files a police report falsely claiming it was stolen. As a result, Ted can be charged under VC 10501.
EXAMPLE 2: Susan's neighbor argues with her and decides to get revenge by calling the police and falsely reporting that Susan stole her car. The neighbor can be charged under VC 10501 for filing a false auto theft report.
EXAMPLE 3: Tim lets Dave borrow his car to make a run to the store. While Dave is gone, Tim forgets that he gave Dave the keys, steps out of the house for an appointment, and notices the car missing.
Tim calls the police to report his car stolen, and while the police are making the report, Dave returns. Tim will likely not be charged under VC 10501 because he genuinely believed his car was stolen and had no intent to deceive the police.
What Are the Related Crimes?
Several California laws are related to Vehicle Code 10501 VC false report of auto theft, including the following:
- Penal Code 548 – 551 PC – auto insurance fraud;
- Penal Code 148.5 PC – false report of a crime;
- Penal Code 148.9 PC – false identification to police;
- Vehicle Code 20 VC – false statements to DMV or CHP;
- Penal Code 115 PC – filing false documents;
- Penal Code 118 PC – perjury;
- Penal Code 118.1 PC – police officer filing a false report.
What Are the Penalties for VC 10501?
Charges and penalties for VC 10501 violations depend primarily on whether it's a first-time or subsequent offense.
For first-time offenses: The violation is charged as a misdemeanor. If you're convicted, you could face the following:
- Fines of up to $1000; and
- Up to 6 months in county jail.
For subsequent offenses: These are "wobbler" offenses, meaning they can be charged either as misdemeanors or felonies, depending on the circumstances and facts of the case. The penalties are as follows
- If charged as a misdemeanor, you could face up to 1 year in county jail if convicted.
- If charged as a felony, you could face up to 3 years in state prison if convicted.
In all instances of VC 10501 violations, the judge can impose probation instead of jail/prison time if circumstances warrant—summary probation for misdemeanors or formal probation for felonies.
What Are the Defenses for VC 10501?
An experienced California criminal defense attorney can develop several legal defenses to combat a Vehicle Code 10501 charge.
These defenses generally revolve around refuting one or more of the elements of the crime listed above. Common defenses are discussed below.
Perhaps we can argue that there was no intent to deceive. Prosecutors must show that you intended to mislead or deceive police officers with your report. The charges may be dismissed if your attorney can prove that you genuinely believed the car was stolen when you filed the report.
Perhaps we can argue that there was no report to law enforcement. For example, you may have claimed your vehicle was stolen but never filed an official report with law enforcement. If your attorney can show this, you can't be convicted.
Perhaps we can argue that you are the victim of a false accusation. If your attorney can show that a false auto theft report was made against you maliciously, it could provide grounds for dismissal of charges.
You can contact us for a case review by phone or using the contact form. Eisner Gorin LLP is located in Los Angeles, CA.