Is it illegal to remove a vehicle identification number (VIN)?

Yes it is illegally to remove the VIN number. This can be violated state law. It is also a violation federal law. There are, however exceptions which can be applied.

pod, below federal lawremoving the VIN number is a felony insulted. The sentence can be pronounced until:

  • 5 years imprisonment and
  • $250,000 fine.

States may have their own laws against VIN removal. For example, California has several. It applies most strictly to:

  • 16 months, 2 years or 3 years of imprisonment, i
  • $25,000 fine.

VIN numbers can be legally removed in some cases. These exceptions may include:

  • removing the VIN number was necessary for repairs and
  • the defender owns a scrap car and was destroying the vehicle.

What is a VIN number?

The VIN number is a Vehicle identification number. There is at least one on every motor vehicle. This includes:

  • cars,
  • trucks,
  • nozzles,
  • motorcycles,
  • trailers,
  • flat beds,
  • mopeds, i
  • scooters.

VIN numbers were standardized in 1981. Since then, all motor vehicles sold have had to have a 17-character VIN.

The first 3 characters identify the company that produced the vehicle.

The next 6 characters describe the type and model of the vehicle.

The last 8 characters identify the specific vehicle. They are similar to the serial number for a particular make and model.

Where are the VIN numbers?

VIN numbers can be located in several places on a motor vehicle. Most vehicles have more than one VIN number.

VIN numbers can usually be found:

  • where the dashboard connects to the windshield on the driver’s side of the vehicle,
  • on the leg or pillar of the driver’s door,
  • on the front of the engine block,
  • under the spare tire in the trunk,
  • in the rear wheel well on the driver’s side, or
  • on the front of the car frame.

Does removing a VIN violate federal law?

It is federal crimes to:

  • remove,
  • destroy,
  • mess around, honey
  • alternately

VIN number of the vehicle. The law also prohibits the removal of identification stickers or stickers with the intent to steal a vehicle. It also prohibits covering those labels or stickers to hide them.1

Breaking the law is a felony. The convictions refer to:

  • 5 years imprisonment and
  • $250,000 fine.

They are there exceptions albeit according to the law. Allows removal of the VIN number in the following cases:

  • processors or wreckers of motor vehicles acting in accordance with state law,
  • anyone who has to remove or change the VIN for repair,
  • anyone who returns or replaces VIN numbers in accordance with state law, and
  • the owner of the vehicle, acting in accordance with the Motor Vehicle Theft Prevention Act, removes or alters the identification label or sticker.2

These exceptions do not apply to persons who knew that the vehicle was stolen.

What about state law?

Many states have their own laws that prohibit the removal of a VIN number. For example, California has three:

  1. Vehicle code 10750 VC,
  2. Vehicle registration number 10802 VCand
  3. Vehicle code 10803 VC.

California Vehicle Plate 10750 VC makes unlawful intentionally:

  • alternative,
  • exchange, gold
  • destroy

VIN numbers.3

A conviction under VC 10750 is a foul. Transfers to:

  • 1 year in county jail, i
  • $1,000 fine.

California vehicle plate 10802 VC is more serious. This makes it illegal to intentionally change the VIN in order to:

  • falsely present or hide the identity of a vehicle or part of a car,
  • for the purpose of selling or transferring it.4

VC 10802 is “wobble” in California. It can be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor.

If charged with a misdemeanor, the conviction carries:

  • up to one year in prison, i
  • a fine of up to $1,000.

If you are charged with a criminal offense, the penalties are higher:

  • 16 months, 2 years or 3 years of imprisonment, i
  • Maximum $25,000 fine.

California vehicle plate 10803 VC also covers modified VIN numbers. The criminal offense consists of:

more than one vehicle or car part with altered VIN numbers. To be liable under VC 10803, the purchaser or possessor must intend:

  • sell,
  • resell,
  • gold transfer
  • take care of the vehicle.

They must also know that the VIN was illegally altered or removed to be liable.5

VC 10803 is another “wobbler” offense.

If charged as a misdemeanor, the conviction may relate to:

  • 1 year imprisonment and
  • $1,000 fine.

Criminal charges owning a vehicle can wear:

  • Imprisonment of 16 months, 2 years or 3 years i
  • Fine up to $30,000.

Criminal charges vehicle purchase with a changed VIN can carry:

  • Imprisonment of 2, 4 or 6 years, i
  • $60,000 fine.

Legal references:


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