Providing False Statements to the California Department of Motor Vehicles (California Vehicle Code Section 20)
You may not think that lying on a DMV form, or giving the DMV fake information is too big of a deal because it doesn’t hurt anyone. However, in California, giving the DMV any type of false information is a crime under California Vehicle Code Section 20, which states “It is unlawful to use a false or fictitious name, or to knowingly make any false statement or knowingly conceal any material fact in any document filed with the Department of Motor Vehicles or the Department of the California Highway Patrol.” 1
The attorneys at Wallin & Klarich have more than three decades of experience successfully defending clients accused of providing false statements to the California DMV. In the following sections, we share information about the law and discuss what to expect if you are facing these charges. We include potential defenses and illustrate the minimum and maximum punishments if you are convicted of a violation of California Vehicle Code Section 20 or the greater offense of a violation of California Vehicle Code 40000.5.
Prosecution of Providing False Statements to the California Department of Motor Vehicles
To prove that someone is guilty of providing false statements to the Department of Motor Vehicles, the prosecutor must prove to the court that you:
a.Used a false or fictitious name, or
b. Knowingly made a false statement, or
c. Knowingly concealed a material fact in a document filed with the DMV.
Example: You are applying for certification to drive a commercial vehicle. You mark on the application that you do not have a felony record even though you do have a past criminal record. In this example, not only could any certification you earn be revoked, you could also be charged with False Statement to the DMV.
Defenses to Providing False Statements to the DMV
Because intent is at the core of this law, your best defense will be to demonstrate that you did not intend to provide false statements. If you show the court that the fraudulent act was mistakenly committed, you would not be guilty of the offense. In other words, if you actually believed that the statements you provided were true, then you should not be found guilty under the law, even if you were mistaken.
For example, if you accidently miswrite two digits in your social security numbers when you are filing out your driver’s license application, the prosecution would have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you intended to provide the wrong number to the DMV. If the prosecution cannot meet their burden of proof, you should be acquitted.
Whether you are facing misdemeanor charges under California Vehicle Code Section 20 or felony charges under California Penal Code Section 118, the false statements and perjury attorneys at Wallin & Klarich have the skills and experience to help you present your best defense to the court. For more than 30 years, our attorneys have successfully defended those facing misdemeanor and felony crimes.
Sentencing and Punishment for Providing False Statements to the DMV
A violation of California Vehicle Code Section 20 is considered a misdemeanor crime under California Vehicle Code 40000.5 that carries the following punishments: 2
- Six months in county jail
- A maximum of fine of $1,000
When Providing False Statements to the DMV Can Be a Felony Crime
In some situations, falsifying information under Vehicle Code Section 20 can be compounded by a violation of perjury laws under California Penal Code 118 3. Under this law, you can be convicted if the court finds that you:
- Intentionally provided false statements
- Knew the statements were false
- Were under oath when you made the false statement
Being charged with this offense could occur if you have a valid driver’s license and you attempt to obtain a second driver’s license under an assumed name with fake personal information. By signing the application form, you swore under penalty of perjury that information you provided was true.
Prosecution for Perjury (California Penal Code Section 118)
To be convicted of the crime of perjury under California Penal Code Section 118, the prosecution will have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt the following elements:
- You made a statement under penalty of perjury or took an oath;
- You willfully presented the information as true even though you knew it was false;
- The information was material (could influence the outcome) to the matter;
- You knew you were making the statement under oath or penalty of perjury;
- You intended for the information to be taken as true when you presented it under oath or penalty of perjury.
If the prosecution is able to prove you committed perjury, you could face felony charges that are punishable by a severe fine and a lengthy prison sentence.
Sentencing and Punishment for Perjury
If the prosecution is able to prove that you committed perjury by giving false information, you could be found guilty of a felony offense that carries the following penalties:
- Two, three, or four years in state prison
- A maximum fine of $10,000
Defenses to Perjury
If your presentation of false statement of fact was an honest mistake, you could use the Mistake of Fact defense to demonstrate to the court that you did not intentionally “lie.”
Another possible defense would be the Accident Defense if it can be demonstrated to the court that you mistakenly provided a false statement. If you try to correct the mistake, you cannot be charged with perjury and you would be acquitted.
A brief overview of some offenses that are related to Providing False Statements to the DMV is included below.
Offering False Evidence (California Penal Code Section 132)
Under California Penal Code Section 132, you can be charged with Offering False Evidence if you “offer(s) in evidence, as genuine or true, any book, paper, document, record, or other instrument in writing, knowing the same to have been forged or fraudulently altered or ante-dated..” 4
Sentencing for Offering False Evidence
Violating California Penal Code Section 132 is a felony offense that is punishable by up to three years in California state prison.
Example of Offering False Evidence
Offering False Evidence can be charged if you give the DMV a pink slip for a vehicle that you knew was fake or altered.
Defense for Offering False Evidence
One legal defense for Offering False Evidence would be Mistake of Fact, which could be used if you did not know that the pink slip you gave the DMV was fake or altered.
Fraudulent Evidence of Registration (California Vehicle Code Section 4463)
California Vehicle Code Section 4463 defines Fraudulent Evidence of Registration as anyone who intentionally “alters, forges, counterfeits, or falsifies” a registration card, license, certificate of ownership, or license plate. 5
Violating California Vehicle Code Section 4463 can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony. When charged as a misdemeanor, you would face up to one year in county jail and/or up to a $1,000 fine.
If you are charged with a felony offense, you face up to three years in state prison or a fine of up to $10,000, or both.
Example of Fraudulent Evidence of Registration
If you alter and display a vehicle registration card, vehicle license, or registration sticker with the intent to defraud the DMV or authorities, you may be charged with fraudulent evidence of registration.
Defense for Fraudulent Evidence of Registration
One possible defense for this crime would be that you did not intent to defraud. For example, you presented registration documents that you received when you bought a used car but were unaware that the documents were fakes. Because intent is at the base of this crime, the prosecution would not be able to prove that you intended to break the law because it was reasonable that you did not know that the documents given to you when you bought the car were forgeries.
Call Wallin & Klarich Today
If you or a loved one is facing charges for providing false statements to the DMV, it is critical that you speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. At Wallin & Klarich, our attorneys have over 30 years of experience in defending persons charged for all types of offenses. Our attorneys will fight to get you the best possible outcome in your case.
With offices in Los Angeles, Sherman Oaks, Torrance, Tustin, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, West Covina and Victorville, there is an experienced Wallin & Klarich Southern California criminal defense attorney near you no matter where you work or live.
Call us today at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 for a free phone consultation. We will be there when you call.