35+ Years Criminal Defense Experience in California


Owning or Operating a Chop Shop – California Vehicle Code 10801 VC

car paint job - operating a chop shop
Operating a chop shop typically involves altering the color, VIN number and license plate number of stolen vehicles.


California Vehicle Code 250 defines a chop shop as any premises where any motor vehicle or motor vehicle part that was obtained by theft, fraud, or conspiracy is altered, destroyed, disassembled, dismantled, reassembled, or stored in order to:

  • Alter, counterfeit, deface, destroy, disguise, falsify, forge, obliterate, or remove the identity, including the vehicle identification number, of said vehicle or part in an effort to:
    • Misrepresent the identity of the vehicle or part;
    • Prevent the identification of the vehicle or part; or
    • Dispose of or sell the vehicle or part.


An Example of A Violation of California Vehicle Code 10801

Bob owns an old mechanic shop that hasn’t been in service for years. Every once in while Bob’s grandson uses the shop to strip down stolen cars and sell the parts on the underground market. Bob is aware of what his grandson is doing Bob could be charged with operating a chop shop.

Other Crimes Related to VC 10801

If you are arrested for owning or operating a chop shop, you could be charged with other additional crimes. These may include:


Prosecution of California Vehicle Code 10801

punishment for operating a chop shop
You may face up to 6 years in state prison for operating a chop shop in California.

In order for you to be convicted of owning or operating a chop shop, the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt the following key elements of the crime:

  1. You knowingly and intentionally owned or operated a chop shop;
  2. You knew that the vehicle or part was illegally obtained; and
  3. You knew that the vehicle or part would be or was:
    1. Altered to misrepresent its identity or prevent its identification; or
    2. Sold or disposed.1


 Sentence and Punishment for Owning or Operating a Chop Shop in California

For owning or operating a chop shop, you can be charged with a felony or a misdemeanor, depending upon the specific circumstances of your case. If charged with a misdemeanor violation, you face up to 364 days in county jail. If charged with felony violation of California Vehicle Code 10801, you face:

  • a fine of up to $50,000;
  • a two three, or four year sentence in California state prison; or
  • both fine and prison sentence.


Possible Defenses to Owning or Operating a Chop Shop

defenses to operating a chop shop
A skilled attorney will be able to raise several defenses on your behalf to help you avoid conviction of operating a chop shop

There are several defenses that a skilled attorney can raise in your case, in order to avoid conviction of VC 10801. Some of these defenses include:

  1. Lack of knowledge. One of the elements that the prosecution is required to prove is that you had knowledge. If you did not know that these illegal practices were occurring, you should not be convicted of operating a chop shop. Likewise, if you did not know the vehicles or parts were stolen, you should not be convicted of this crime. However, you will need a skilled criminal defense attorney to raise these defenses on your behalf and show that you lacked knowledge of these criminal activities.
  1. No intent. In order to convict you of this crime, the prosecution must prove that you intended to alter, destroy or stole stolen vehicles or parts. If your attorney can show that you did not intend to partake in these illegal practices, you could have a valid defense.
  1. You did not own or operate the shop. Perhaps you were arrested for operating a chop shop soon after you became the new owner of the shop. The previous owner of the shop had been altering, destroying, or storing stolen vehicles or parts. However, no illegal practices occurred during the time you obtained ownership. If your attorney is able to show that you did not own the shop during the time the illegal activities were taking place, you would have a valid defense.
  1. Insufficient evidence. A skilled attorney will be able to challenge the evidence presented by the prosecution. If there is not enough evidence to indicate that the vehicles or parts were stolen, or that illegal practices were taking place in the shop, you should not be convicted of owning or operating a chop shop.


Frequently Asked Questions on Operating or Owning a Chop Shop – VC 10801

At Wallin & Klarich, we often receive questions from clients facing charges for owning and operating a chop shop. Some of these include:

  1. I am a mechanic and I recently found out that one of the vehicles I repaired at my shop was stolen. Can I be charged with owning a repair shop?

California law requires that you had knowledge and intent to alter stolen vehicles or parts in order for you to be convicted of this crime under VC 10801. If you were unaware that the vehicle repaired was stolen, then you should not be convicted of operating a chop shop.2

  1. I was arrested for operating a chop shop, but the cars were repaired or altered in the driveway of my home, not in a shop. Can I still be convicted of this crime?

Yes. Under California Vehicle Code 10801, a chop shop is a building, lot, or other place where you altered, destroyed or stored stolen vehicles or parts. Thus, a home drive way would constitute a lot or other place as specified under this law.

  1. The police searched my shop without a warrant and found old car parts from a stolen car. Can I be convicted of owning a chop shop?

Under California and federal law, police officers must have a warrant to search private property. Contact a California criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Depending on the specific circumstances of your case, your attorney may be able to have the case against you dismissed due to an unlawful police search.


Why You Should Hire Wallin & Klarich If You Have Been Charged With VC 10801

partners 2015 - operating a chop shop
Contact the attorneys at Wallin 7 Klarich today if you have been charged with operation a chop shop in California

If you or a loved one has been charged with owning or operating a chop shop, it is critical that you contact a criminal defense attorney immediately.

At Wallin & Klarich, our skilled attorneys have over 30 years of experience successfully defending those charged with operating a chop shop.

With offices located in Los Angeles, Sherman Oaks, Torrance, Orange County, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, West Covina and Victorville, there is an experienced Wallin & Klarich criminal defense attorney available to help you no matter where you work or live.

Call us today at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5425 for a free phone consultation. We will be there when you call.

1. http://www.courts.ca.gov/partners/documents/calcrim_juryins.pdf

2. http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes_displaySection.xhtml?lawCode=VEH&sectionNum=10801

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