The Crime of Owning or Operating a Chop Shop in California - VC 10801
The California crime of “owning or operating a chop shop” is defined under Vehicle Code 10801 VC. A chop shop is described as any premises where a person alters, or stores stolen motor vehicles or their parts for the purpose of selling them.
There is a huge black market for any type of automobile parts as many are interchangeable with other vehicles. Thus, cars are stolen to stripp them down and sell the individual parts.
This type of California theft crime carries the infamous name of a “chop shop.”
California Vehicle Code 10801 VC prohibits knowingly owning or operating a chop shop and carries significant penalties if you are convicted.
California Vehicle Code 250 VC describes a chop shop as:
- “Any premises where a motor vehicle or their parts were obtained by theft, fraud, or conspiracy is altered, destroyed, disassembled, dismantled, or stored to alter, deface, disguise, counterfeit, forge, or to remove identity.”
It also includes the vehicle identification number (VIN) or vehicle part when there is an effort to:
- Misrepresent the identity
- Prevent identification, or
- Dispose of or sell the vehicle or part
In Los Angeles County, a common chop shop situation is when a person owns and operates a garage and allows car thieves to bring him stolen cars.
Next, his employees will strip down each vehicle and he will sell the individual parts. This is the classic example of when someone can be charged with violating Vehicle Code 10801 VC, operating a chop shop.
Our Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers are providing a more detailed review below.
What is the Definition of VC 10801 Operating a Chop Shop?
Under California Vehicle Code 10801 VC, owning or operating a chop shop is defined as:
- Any individual who knowingly and intentionally owns or operates a chop shop is guilty of a public crime. If convicted, it's punishable by imprisonment for two, three, or four years, a fine up to $50,000, or up to one year in a county jail and a fine up to $1,000, or both.
To “knowingly” operate a chop shop simply means you were aware of getting involved in a chop shop operation, knew the vehicle and/or parts were acquired illegally, and knew the vehicle parts were acquired in order to disguise their identity, or to sell then unlawfully.
To “operate” a chop shop doesn't mean you have to actually supervise the chop shop operation in order to be convicted of violating Vehicle Code 10801 VC.
If you were an active participant in operating the chop shop, even if you didn't plan it, you could still be found guilty.
What Must Be Proven for a VC 10801 Conviction?
The prosecutor must be able to prove several important factors in order to convict you of operating a chop shop in violation of Vehicle Code 10801 VC.
These factors are commonly known as the ‘elements of the crime” and listed under CALCRIM 1752 Jury instructions, that a defendant:
- Knowingly and intentionally owned or operated a chop shop
- Knew the vehicle or their parts were obtained by theft or fraud, and
- Knew the vehicle or their parts were obtained to;
- Sell or dispose the vehicle or their parts, or
- Alter in order to misrepresent or prevent identification
Prosecutors will typically reply on circumstantial evidence in order to prove a defendant actually “knew” they were involved in a chop shop operation.
What are the Penalties for Operating a Chop Shop?
Owning or operating a chop shop under California Vehicle Code 10801 VC is another “wobbler” theft offense.
This means the prosecutor can file the case as either a misdemeanor or felony crime.
They will make their decision based the number of vehicles involved, monetary value of damages, level of chop shop operation, and defendant's criminal history.
If you are convicted on a VC 10801 misdemeanor case, the penalties include:
- Up to one year in a county jail
- A fine up to $1,000
- Summary probation
If you are convicted on a VC 10801 felony case, the penalties include:
- Up to four years in a county jail
- A fine up to $50,000
- Formal probation.
The judge has the discretion to impose probation in lieu of jail time. If granted probation, you will be required to follow certain conditions, such as monthly meetings with a probation officer, victim restitution, and others.
If you don't follow all the terms and conditions, you will face a probation violation and jail time.
What are the Related California Offenses for VC 10801?
- Penal Code 459 PC – auto burglary
- Penal Code 487(d)(1) PC – grand theft auto
- Penal Code 496 PC – receiving stolen property
- Vehicle Code 10802 VC – tampering with vehicle VIN
- Vehicle Code 10803 VC – possessing vehicle with tampered VIN
How Can I Fight Operating a Chop Shop Charges?
If you were charged with violating California Vehicle Code 10801 VC, our Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys can use a wide range of strategies for best possible outcome:
Lack of knowledge - recall the elements of the crime above that state the prosecutor must prove you knew about the chop shop operation. We might be able to
- Lack of intent – we might be able to make a reasonable argument you didn't have the intent to alter, destroy or steal vehicles or their parts. In other words, there was a lack of intent to participate in illegal activity. This approach is frequently an effective tool for negotiation with the prosecutor for reduced charges or even getting the case dismissed.
- You didn't own or operate the chop shop – perhaps we could make an argument the prior owner of the premises was operating the chop shop. In other words, as the new owner, there has not been any illegal activity since you started operating the facility and you had no knowledge of any illegal operation.
If you or a family member were accused of violating California Vehicle Code 10801 VC, owning or operating a chop shop, call our Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers to review the details.
Eisner Gorin LLP is a top-rated criminal defense law firm with highly experienced lawyers and a record of success in all types of theft crime offenses.
We are located a at 1875 Century Park E #705, Los Angeles, CA 90067. Our main office is located next to the Van Nuys Superior Court at 14401 Sylvan St #112 Van Nuys, CA 91401.
Contact our office for an immediate consultation at (877) 781-1570.