When most people are buying a used car, they are more concerned that the vehicle is in good shape, hasn't been in any major accidents, doesn't have too many miles, and is a good price. Most people don't think too much about the vehicle identification number (VIN). However, in some cases, your car may have a stolen, altered or cloned VIN number, and be driving around a stolen car. Even if you didn't know it was stolen, you may lose the car, and be out the money you paid for it.
Defacement of Identifying Numbers
Altering the vehicle identification numbers of a motor vehicle or trailer shall be punished by a fine of up to $1,000 or imprisonment for up to 3 years. This includes intentionally or maliciously removing, defacing, changing, destroying, obliterating, mutilating or causing to be removed in any way. If you've been charged with altering a vehicle identification number in Boston, MA, contact the lawyers at Dhar Law LLP today at 617-391-0592.
Even if there is no direct evidence that you intentionally altered the VIN, the possession of any motor vehicle by someone who knows, should have know, or has reason to know that the VIN has been altered is considered to be prima facie evidence of this violation.
Selling or attempting to sell, transfer or dispose of a vehicle having reason to believe that the identifying numbers have been removed or altered is similarly penalized. However, buying, receiving, possessing or obtaining control of a vehicle having reason to belief that the vehicle identification number has been altered or tampered with is punishable by up to $500 in fines, and up to two years in prison.
Additionally, a conviction for altering a VIN, or possessing, buying or selling a vehicle with an altered identification number may result in a suspended license.
Altering a VIN Leading to Grand Larceny Charges
In some cases, the police or prosecutor may try and charge a person who is in possession of a vehicle with an altered VIN with the greater crime of motor vehicle theft. Evidence that a VIN has been intentionally or maliciously removed, defaced, altered, changed, destroyed or mutilated shall be prima facie that the defendant knew or had reason to know that the vehicle had been stolen.
Buying, receiving or possessing a motor vehicle which the defendant had reason to know had been stolen is punishable by up to 15 years in prison, and up to $15,000 in fines. .
Trafficking in Vehicles with Altered VINs
Trafficking in certain motor vehicles with altered identification numbers may be prosecuted as a federal offense, if it involves transporting vehicles across state lines. Either out of Massachusetts, into Massachusetts, or passing through the Commonwealth.
Whoever buys, receives, possesses or obtains control of a motor vehicle knowing that an identification number has been removed, obliterated, tampered with or altered shall be fined and may face prison of up to 10 years.
There has been a recent increase in cars involved in VIN cloning. Rather than chopping up a stolen car for parts, thieves are using VINs of similar make and model cars to create fake VINs to place on the stolen car. They can then sell the stolen car as if it were legitimate by using another vehicle's VIN. However, when it is later discovered that there are two cars with the same VIN, or if the police identify the fraudulent VINs, the person who bought the stolen car may be out of luck, and be out the vehicle and the money paid for the car.
Altering a VIN Defenses
The available defenses in your case will depend on the individual facts and circumstances. You may have bought a car without having any idea that the VIN was altered or that the car was stolen. Just because the police and prosecutors treat you like you're guilty, does not mean you have to plead guilty. You have the right to have an attorney defend you in court, to show that the prosecution's case is flawed, and that you are not guilty of VIN fraud.
Call Dhar Law LLP
At Dhar Law LLP in Boston, we have experience defending individuals charged with vehicle identification fraud. We will be able to explain all your options, the best defense, and how to fight the charges against you to have them dismissed, reduced or found not guilty. Call our lawyers today at 617-391-0592.